Our Defibrillator Saved a Life - Simon's Video Interview with Bristol Live
Updated: Jan 25
Defibrillator at Bristol pub used to resuscitate customer in cardiac arrest
Bristol Live (Aug 2021)
Two people who helped to restart his heart returned to their pints afterwards
One man's mission to fill Bristol with defibrillators has led to a customer being resuscitated in a pub.
During the last two years, Simon Brookes' campaigning has helped to bring 16 publicly accessible defibrillators — which can give a potentially life-saving electric shock to the heart of someone in cardiac arrest — to different parts of the city.
And the 70-year-old's tireless work paid off around a month ago, when he received a text from the landlady of Brislington's Sandringham pub — one of the sites where a machine had been installed thanks to his fundraising.
Simon, from Westbury-on-Trym, said: "I had a text from her saying, 'can you get me some new pads for the defibrillator?' And I went 'what?!'
"It turned out a guy had collapsed in the pub. Two punters were having a pint and they did CPR on him. The landlady got the defibrillator for them, and they gave him two shocks."
The shocks brought the man back to consciousness. Although Simon went over "pretty promptly", the patient had already been taken to hospital — but the two drinkers who had stepped in were still enjoying their pints.
"One of the guys told me he had learned CPR and how to use a defibrillator 30 years ago when he worked for the electricity board," Simon said.
"The other one had never been taught before. I said to them, 'I'm so chuffed for you, you've done brilliantly.'"
Simon Brookes, the man behind the defibrillator campaign, outside The Sandringham pub
Simon started his campaign to install the machines across Bristol because of his experiences volunteering as a community first responder, giving treatment following 999 calls.
"For every minute no one does anything, a cardiac arrest victim's life chances reduce by 10 per cent," he said. "They may have only five minutes' worth of oxygen in their system when they go into arrest."
The incident at The Sandringham is not the only recent usage of the defibrillators from Simon's campaign, although he does not know the outcome of the others because of data protection.
Over the last couple of months, the machines at Salvatore's hairdressers in Stoke Bishop and CJ Hole estate agents in Bedminster were both brought into action, while the one at Trojan Gym in Ashton was about to be used a moment before paramedics arrived.
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"Before that, it was very quiet," Simon said. "I don't know why these incidents have all come in a glut in the last couple of months."
The incidents underline Bristol's need for more defibrillators, Simon believes. For comparison, Swansea had 349 publicly accessible across the city (a rate of 141 per 100,000 people), while Bristol had just 107 (a rate of 23), according to data from health and safety company CE Safety in 2019.
'Vast areas without access'
"There should be one within walking distance of any point in the city," Simon added. "There must be vast areas of Bristol without a defibrillator. We've got to be talking hundreds to have proper coverage.
"Everyone has woken up to it because of Christian Eriksen's cardiac arrest in Euro 2020, but it happens every day of the week in Bristol."
Simon has helped bring about 16 installations in areas including Westbury, Southmead, Stockwood, Horfield and Eastfield. Each machine cost around £1,800.
The defibrillator at The Sandringham
Defibrillator at The Sandringham
The defibrillator at The Sandringham
He has achieved this by running crowdfunders, "chatting up" local businesses for contributions and, in two cases, reviving funds previously raised in other defibrillator campaigns which "ran out of steam".
Simon, a former Royal Marine reservist, said he "likes a challenge" - which was what first led him to volunteer as a first responder, which he did for nine years.
"They give you a defibrillator and an oxygen cylinder. There's a 999 call for a possible cardiac arrest or breathing difficulties near you, you get a text, and off you go.
"Sometimes you get there before the ambulance crew. The whole idea is someone gets there quickly to give life-saving help," he said.
The role saw Simon go through harrowing experiences, with life-saving interventions as well as cases where the patients could not be revived.
"On one occasion, a .young woman had gone numb down one side, with a suspected stroke. I found that particularly upsetting. It was a woman of about 23 in a public place.
"I got one of the crew members to let me know what happened afterwards, and she ended up being discharged from hospital the next day. That's not one where a defibrillator would be used, but like with cardiac arrests, an early intervention in a stroke will likely mean a better outcome."
Simon Brookes demonstrates CPR technique
Simon's latest defibrillator is near Horfield Prison and he is working with local businesses to raise money for another, on Gloucester Road, near the junction with Zetland Road.
South Western Ambulance Service said it was unable to provide the number of publicly accessible defibrillators in Bristol, but that existing locations include at Bristol Temple Meads station, Gordano Welcome Break services and the HM Coastguard Station in Clevedon.
An ambulance service spokesman said: “We welcome any effort to fundraise for defibrillators and help save lives in the South West.
“Sadly many cardiac arrests happen every day in our region, and they often involved people’s loved ones. So it’s vital that everyone knows what to do when someone collapses or stops breathing normally.
"They need to recognise when someone needs urgent help, call 999 for an ambulance, and be prepared for the call handler to help them to start CPR and use a defibrillator. These actions really can be the difference between someone living or dying.
“The more people equipped with the knowledge and confidence to administer CPR and the more defibrillators there are available, the better someone’s chance of survival from cardiac arrest. We encourage all businesses and workplaces to have defibrillators and CPR-trained people available to respond in an emergency situation.”