Woman who survived three cardiac arrests to do 52-mile charity cycle

A Kirkcaldy woman who has survived three cardiac arrests is taking on a 52-mile night cycle to raise money for the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

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Sarah Howard-Stone, right, and partner DianeSarah Howard-Stone, right, and partner Diane
Sarah Howard-Stone, right, and partner Diane

Sarah Howard-Stone (47) will cycle from Manchester to Blackpool, setting off from Emirates Old Trafford Cricket Ground at midnight on October 5th.

In May 2016 Sarah, who works for the Scottish Ambulance Service, was at work when her heart stopped beating. She suffered two more cardiac arrests over the next two days.

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“I was in a meeting with three paramedics and a clinical director when I got a sudden migraine,” said Sarah.

“The next thing I knew I was on the floor. One of my colleagues started CPR straight away and that’s what saved my life.

“I had no idea what was going on, I thought I had just fainted, but I was actually dead.

“If I’d been anywhere else, even at my desk, the outcome wouldn’t have been the same.

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“In hospital that afternoon, I was chatting to my partner Diane and my heart stopped again – she was in the room while they shocked me, and it was a really scary experience for her.

She said, ‘please never do that to me again’. The next morning I got up from my hospital bed and had another cardiac arrest.”

Sarah was fitted with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), which will automatically shock her should her heart stop again. She is awaiting genetic testing to find out if her rare condition, Torsades de Pointes, which causes an abnormal heart rhythm, is inherited.

“When I left hospital I had zero follow-up or support and was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Diane has also struggled with flashbacks,” said Sarah.

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“I wasn’t able to exercise for 18 months after I left hospital, so over the past year I have been building my fitness up again, although I need to accept that my body will never be able to do what it used to. I go to a spin class three times a week and for a bike ride at least twice a week.

“I’m really looking forward to the Manchester to Blackpool Night Ride because it’ll be a really good challenge. I don’t usually cycle at night, and it’s the longest bike ride I’ve ever done, so there are a lot of elements that are new to me.

“I’ll be cycling with my best friend Brian and our partners will be at the finish line to meet us.”

Fewer than one in ten people survive an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in the UK.

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The British Heart Foundation provides life-saving CPR kits to thousands of schools and community groups across the country, and earlier this year every council in Scotland gave its backing to BHF Scotland’s Nation of Lifesavers Campaign – which will see 50,000 secondary school pupils trained in CPR each year. The BHF has helped fund at least 31 defibrillators in Fife, and more than 1,200 in Scotland, to increase the chances of survival following a cardiac arrest.

Sarah said: “If my story makes one person sit back and think about what they can do to make a difference, then it’s worth it. CPR saved my life, so please go and learn it. So much research needs to be done in terms of heart diseases, so if you can donate money to the BHF, or register as an organ donor, you could make a huge difference.”

Matt McMahon, Events Marketing Officer at the BHF, said: “If you witness someone have a cardiac arrest they will be unconscious and not breathing. It’s vital to call 999 and start CPR immediately, and ask someone to find the nearest defibrillator. Every minute that passes without medical treatment decreases that person’s chance of survival by up to 10%.

“Sarah is taking on an incredible challenge by doing the Manchester to Blackpool Night Ride. The money raised by our amazing cyclists will help us to fund research into heart and circulatory conditions such as heart disease and stroke, and the conditions which cause them, such as diabetes – so that together we can beat heartbreak forever.”

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Sarah aims to raise at least £100 for the BHF, which could buy a DNA extraction kit to identify the genes involved in heart and circulatory conditions. Sarah’s fundraising page is https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sarah-howard-stone2

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