Grateful Sunderland pensioner Betty: A night at the Mecca bingo saved my life

A hug for the man she says saved her life. Betty Barnes with Ken Norton.
A hug for the man she says saved her life. Betty Barnes with Ken Norton.
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GREAT-GRANDMA Betty Barnes thought her number was up when she collapsed at her favourite bingo club.

But a quick-thinking member of staff rushed to her rescue, saving the 73-year-old’s life.

Today, Betty was reunited with her hero, telling him: “I thank you with all my pacemaker heart – you deserve a bag of gold.”

The pensioner, from Grindon, was about to buy her books at Mecca Bingo in Holmeside when she collapsed with a heart attack.

It was the actions of the bingo hall’s first-aider, Ken Norton, that kept her alive until paramedics arrived.

“I just can’t thank him enough. He saved my life,” Betty said.

“I remember going into town and then heading to the bingo. The next thing I remember I was in hospital.”

She added: “I had a £3-off ticket for the bingo – it’s like a £3 life insurance – but I didn’t even get to use it.

“I was asking my friend ‘Did I win the big one? Is that what made me collapse?’ But I hadn’t even bought my books.”

Grandad Ken, 67, from Grangetown, who has worked in a number of roles at Mecca over the past 11 years, had to remove Betty’s false teeth to ensure her airways were unblocked.

He put her in the recovering position and monitored her until paramedics arrived – ready to perform CPR if her heart stopped beating completely.

“I could feel that her heart was weak, so I just kept monitoring her,” he said.

But modest Ken, who lives with wife Elizabeth, said he could claim no glory for his actions.

“It was the paramedics and the hospital staff that saved her life. I just put her in the recovery position and monitored her,” he said. “It’s just the first thing they teach you on a first aid course.”

Betty spent six days in Sunderland Royal Hospital, where medics fitted her with a pacemaker. The great-grandmother, who worked at Pyrex for 25 years with partner Gordon Bulmer, had suffered a previous attack four years’ ago.

“When I was in hospital the paramedics came to see me and I thanked them very much, but they said ‘You don’t need to thank us, it’s that gentleman at the bingo you need to thank’,” she said.

“When Ken came in I thought ‘It is him’, I’ve seen him so many times. He’s held the door for me and carried my bag countless times.

“He doesn’t get the recognition he deserves – he deserves a bag of gold.”

She added: “I need to take it easy now, but I’ll still be going to the bingo. I’ve been going there for years.”

Betty also thanked Dr Mahmood and medical staff at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Angela Heggarty, duty manager at Mecca, said: “Our staff are absolutely fantastic in any sort of emergency.

“We are very, very proud of them.”

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