Watch as Sunderland grandfather meets the three men who saved his life after suffering a cardiac arrest at gym

A Sunderland man has described the gym instructors who save his life as “my heroes” and stressed he “wouldn’t be here now without them” during an emotional reunion three weeks after he collapsed from a cardiac arrest.

Allan Scott’s heart stopped just after midday on Thursday, August 4, and the actions of people in the gym who administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to keep him alive and used a defibrillator to successfully restart his heart prevented his family losing a husband, stepfather to Erika Massey and Lee Willshaw and grandfather to 13 grandchildren.

While Allan, 58, had just been informed of the need to take statins as a precautionary measure due to his family history, he had a successful Well Man check two days earlier and had set off for his usual gym session feeling “fit and well”.

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It was while working out on his usual lat pull-down at PureGym Sunderland that Allan’s life nearly came to premature end.

He said: “There was nothing unusual that morning and I didn’t feel any different. I got to the gym at 11.50 and had done my usual warm up. I remember starting my pull-downs and I can’t recall anything after that.

"The next thing I remember is being on a trolley which must have been at the hospital. There was lots of noise and bright lights. I could hear people talking about what they needed to do.”

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After being discharged from hospital a week ago, today (August 24) was the first time Allan had the opportunity to meet the three men who saved his life – Andrew Boal-Wallace, Dan Knott and Gary Lee.

A tearful Allan, who is from Southwick and works as a plasterer, said: “My main artery had become blocked and the surgeon who fitted my stent said my heart had stopped and if it hadn’t been for the actions taken by these people then I would be dead or seriously brain damaged. These lads are my heroes.

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Allan Scott 58 (left) with PureGym staff (left to right) Dan Knott, Andrew Boal-Wallace and Gary Lee who used the defibrillator Alan and Andrew are holding to save his life. Picture by FRANK REID

"Coming in this morning and seeing them was really emotional. I just keep thinking if it wasn’t for them then I wouldn’t be here today and my family wouldn’t have me.

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"I couldn’t wait to get down here to thank them – even if they did break one of my ribs!”

Also wanting to express her gratitude was Allan’s wife, Mary Scott, 72, who added: “It’s overwhelming to see Gary, Andrew and Dan. I can’t thank them enough as if it hadn’t been for them I wouldn’t have a husband, my daughter wouldn’t have a father and my grandson wouldn’t have his grandfather.

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"I sometimes grab hold of Allan as I can’t believe he’s still here.”

Alan Scott 58, believes there should be wider access to defibrillators. Picture by FRANK REID
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Staff at the gym were alerted by other members that Alan had collapsed.

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Having just completed their first-aid refresher course two months ago, the trio remained calm and their training enabled them to take control of the situation.

The first to arrive at the scene was assistant manager Dan Knott, 38.

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Alan Scott, 58, with his wife Mary, 72. Picture by FRANK REID

He said: “I did an initial assessment and Allan was not breathing and showing no signs of response.”

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As Dan raced to get the in-house defibrillator, manager Andrew Boal-Wallace carried out CPR with the help of a gym member who was a nurse.

Andrew, 39, said: “It was actually my day off and I was only in the gym to meet with a client. I saw Allan on the floor with his legs still over the equipment. I immediately pulled him away and we started doing CPR.

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“When Dan arrived we tore off his shirt, got the pads on and the defibrillator started to assess his heart.”

With Allan’s life in the balance, time was of the essence as figures provided by the North East Ambulance Service show that a patient’s chance of survival falls by around seven to 10 per cent with every minute that defibrillation is delayed.

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Dan added: “The machine assesses whether defibrillation is needed and then counts you through the CPR.

PureGym manager Andrew Boal-Wallace, 39, carried out CPR on Allan while they waited for the ambulance to arrive. Picture by FRANK REID
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"One shock was advised and so I pressed the orange button. It didn’t advise anymore shocks and so we continued doing CPR until the ambulance arrived eight minutes after Allan collapsed.”

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Also helping Allan in his fight for life was physical trainer Gary Lee, 30, who called the ambulance service, communicated what was happening and cleared the area.

He said: “Between the three of us our training just seemed to kick in and take over. You never really expect to have to use it but it just shows how important first aid training can be.”

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By the time the paramedics arrived Allan was starting to show signs of life with his “eyes starting to blink”, but is wasn’t until that evening they found out he had survived.

Andrew said: “It was a massive relief and it’s amazing to see Allan here today.”

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It was an unplanned twist of fate which led to Allan being in the gym that morning, a twist which probably saved his life.

He said: “On a Thursday morning I’m usually in the house looking after my grandson but my wife decided to take him out for the day and so I made a last minute decision to go to the gym.

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"It’s only because I was at the gym where there was a defibrillator and people trained to use it that I’m alive. If it had occurred when I was at home I dread to think what would have happened.

"It shows just how important it is for wider access to defibrillators. Even if it saves just one life then the cost is surely worth it.”

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It’s a sentiment shared by Andrew who added: “A couple of years ago a customer at a supermarket fell to the floor. I did CPR but there was no defibrillator on the site and she didn’t make it.

"It’s incredibly important to have increased public access to defibrillators.”

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Allan hopes to one day get back to his regular gym routine but for now he has a number of tests to undergo and has been told to “take it easy”.

PureGym assistant manager Dan Knott, 38, used the defibrillator to restart Allan's heart. Picture by FRANK REID
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PureGym physical trainer Gary Lee, 30, phoned the ambulance and cleared the area around Allan. Picture by FRANK REID