‘I owe you my life’ - Fife man’s grateful words to shop workers

ltr rear Lee-anne Drummond, Ben Tucker, Paul Williamson Store Manager, Maureen Johnstone (front) Ellen Dodds and Walter Dodds.
ltr rear Lee-anne Drummond, Ben Tucker, Paul Williamson Store Manager, Maureen Johnstone (front) Ellen Dodds and Walter Dodds.

When Glenrothes golfer Walter Dodds joined a dozen pals at the start of a trip to England to enjoy a few rounds back in May, little did he know that his life could so nearly have been lost just hours later had it not been for the heroic actions of supermarket staff.

Having stopped off in Berwick-upon-Tweed for breakfast, Walter’s life suddenly turned upside down when he suffered a heart attack.

What happened in the next 45 minutes as staff members fought to save him, made the difference between Walter being here today and certain tragedy.

For it was the quick thinking action of 60-year-old checkout supervisor Maureen Johnstone, along with support from other staff, that ultimately saved Walter.

“It was fortunate that I turned round to see him at the moment when he collapsed,” explained Maureen who, as one of the stores trained first aiders, rushed to his assistance.

“I’ve dealt with this sort of thing before but it quickly became apparent as I put Walter into the recovery position that it was a whole lot more serious as he had stopped breathing.

“I guess the seriousness of what you are faced with and the adrenaline just kicks in I really had no time to think about it.”

Helped by colleagues Lee-Anne Drummond, who relayed vital information from paramedics who had been alerted to the emergency, Ben Tucker and manager Paul Williams, Maureen set about administering CPR in a bid to restart Walter’s heart.

There was a sense of elation for the staff as Walter started breathing again, but it was to offer a brief glimmer of hope as Walter’s heart subsequently stopped four times.

“It turned into a fight to save his life, and was extremely stressful as it became more and more frantic, I was told more than once that we had lost him but I was determined not to give up, we all were,” Maureen recalled.

Helped by the kiss of life and constant efforts to resuscitate the 68-year-old’s heart, it became an increasingly desperate fight for life in what turned out to be 45 minutes before professional help arrived.

“I was so relieved to see the paramedics but they told me to carry on, I think we broke three of Walter’s ribs in the effort, it was only afterwards that I was told we were the difference between saving him and losing him,” Maureen added.

“The gravity of what we had done and the emotion didn’t hit me until some time later.”

But thanks to those selfless and caring actions of staff, Walter did survive and after nearly four weeks in Newcastle hospitals and an operation to insert stents into his heart, Walter was allowed to return home for further convalescence and care at Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy.

And on Wednesday evening Walter and his family got the chance to offer their thanks to those staff who had been invited as the guests of the CISWO Club to attend a special charity function and a reunion with the man whose life they saved.

“They are very special people and I can’t begin to thank them enough, and finally meeting Maureen and her colleagues face-to-face has been very, very emotional indeed but also vitally important,” Walter told the Gazette.

“Tears ran down may face when I saw her, she is the reason I’m here and I’ll never be able to fully thank her for that.”

And the evening proved an equally emotional one for Maureen and her colleagues.

“Once he was taken away you’re left wondering and dealing with all of the stress and emotion of what you have been involved in,” she said.

“To be able to actually meet him again, to see him with his family, his children and his friends and to know you helped achieve that has proved very powerful, there were a great many tears shed that evening.

“To see him up dancing and to even be able to have a dance with him myself is overwhelming and will take a long time to fully come to terms with.

“ I’m just glad that the training,you hope you never have to use, resulted in us all being able to enjoy such an occasion as this.

“It’s incredible.”