Shocking save brings Fife man back from death

Standing just metres from the spot where less than four months ago a local gym owner saved his life, Brian Clarke reflects on the story of how a public access defibrillator brought him back to life.

Friday, 10th June 2016, 9:52 am
Updated Monday, 13th June 2016, 12:58 pm
Brian Clarke and Stuart Barton at Anstruther Harbour just metres from where Startu delivered a lifesaving shock to Brian's heart.
Brian Clarke and Stuart Barton at Anstruther Harbour just metres from where Startu delivered a lifesaving shock to Brian's heart.

The retired firefighter had left Stuart Barton’s gym after a strenuous but not unusually taxing workout.

The 63-year-old walked across Anstruther main street towards the car park and just six minutes later his heart had stopped.

Instinct must have kicked in because Brian managed to apply the handbrake before slumping over the wheel.

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“I don’t remember feeling unwell, but my heart had actually stopped.”

Brian, a retired firefighter, who lives with his wife Fiona in St Monans, attended the gym two to three times a week. He was also a keen cyclist, rower and led an active life.

Stuart passed Brian as he was leaving the gym and asked him if he had finished, he chillingly replied: “That’s me well and truly done.”

Minutes later another gym patron noticed Brian in the car park and raised the alarm.

Stuart, who is trained in advanced first aid, hauled Brian from the car and started administering CPR while someone else fetched the public access defibrillator, from the outside of the gym building.

“It’s not like in the class environment where you’re taught CPR, it was February – blowing a hoolie, it was dark,” Stuart explained.

“I couldn’t really see what was going on and I couldn’t hear for breath sounds. But with no pulse I realised he was clinically dead.

“That’s when I shouted to get the defibrillator which is on the clinic wall. I continued doing CPR. And when the defib came, I popped it on his chest, it does the rest.”

Stuart’s CPR efforts managed to successfully restart Brian’s breathing before the arrival of Gillian Duncan from First Responders.

“Without the first shock of a defibrillator the chances of survivial are very slim,” she said. “You have got to receive a shock in the first eight minutes to stand a chance of survival.

“It is important that bystanders step forward and are willing to use the defibrillators to fill in the crucial minutes before the arrival of the First Responders or emergency services.”

With a career as a firefighter behind him Brian knows the importance of the public stepping forward and taking part in these sort of situations. He said: “Anyone who is willing to give a hand helps – it is all about the speed of things and often all it takes is for one person to start before others join in.”

Left with a couple of stents in his heart and a deeper appreciation of things, Brian is grateful that Stuart was one of those people who chose to step forward.