‘I died in the right place’ – heart-stop mum thanks off-duty paramedic who saved her life

Paramedic Mark Syson, Mary Harris, Richard Harris
Paramedic Mark Syson, Mary Harris, Richard Harris
Have your say

A MUM has today spoken of how she owes her life to an off-duty paramedic who saved her after she suffered a cardiac arrest on the treadmill.

In a break with her usual routine, Mary Harris had gone to the Inta Fitness gym near her home in Easington Colliery at lunchtime, on March 20.

She was nearing the end of her run when she collapsed. In a twist of fate, the only other person in the gym at the time was paramedic Mark Syson.

He started CPR on the 54-year-old after seeing her slumped on the treadmill and shouted for a member of staff to call an ambulance.

“I realised that something was very wrong. My chest was feeling very constricted,” Mary said. “I tried to stop the machine, but it wasn’t stopping quick enough.

“I was trying to breathe and that’s the last thing I remember. I just fell and my heart stopped.

“That was the point when my hero came to the rescue and started to administer CPR very aggressively. There was no breathing or pulse and my lips had started to go blue.”

Mary, who is married to Richard and is mum to Sarah, 33, has since been told there is a less than three per cent chance of survival when a cardiac arrest occurs outside of a hospital.

She added: “At that time there were two people left in the gym, myself and him.

“I can’t emphasise strongly enough, the importance of that. Had I gone in the morning, he wouldn’t have been there.

“It was almost like fate led me to be late going to the gym. He saved my life. It is something that will never happen again.”

Tests at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough showed that Mary has a degenerative heart problem, which required open heart surgery to repair, and she has had a synthetic valve inserted in her aorta.

The same condition claimed the lives of her dad and grandad, who both died aged 49, and her uncle who was 54. “The good thing is that I died in the right place,” Mary said. “It has enabled my daughter and her cousin to be tested, so it may turn out that he has not only saved my life but theirs as well.

Civil servant Mary is still recuperating at home but medics have said she will make a full recovery. “I didn’t know I was walking along like a ticking timebomb waiting to go off,” she said. “My family could have been mourning me and had my funeral. Instead I’m enjoying sitting here looking out at the sunshine.”

Mark and Mary have now been reunited.

He said: “I was nervous and slightly embarrassed when meeting Mary and Richard for the first time since the incident. As a paramedic we don’t normally meet our patients again or their families after they are taken to hospital.

“It was lovely to see both of them again and especially Mary who seemed in good spirits regardless of what had happened. It makes you feel very humble and I’m so pleased I was able to help Mary when she needed it. I wish Mary and her family all the best.”