Back from a heart attack at 80

A Grenfell couple has a renewed appreciation of our local hospital after staff helped to save the life of an 80-year-old man who had a cardiac arrest.

Ken and Janice Thompson have lived in Grenfell since 2007, following 29 years as farmers in Tullamore, where they raised four children.

It was Janice who began the fight for her husband's life, when he collapsed off his kitchen chair on the morning of March 10.

"Is he awake?" asked the Triple Zero operator during Janice's desperate call for help.

"No he's not", Janice answered, her voice trembling. "I think he might have gone. I think he might have gone."

Despite the tears, she was able to compose herself to administer the CPR that would give Ken the tiny chance of surviving a cardiac arrest in the home.

Two grandchildren were there as the horror was unfolding. Their then seven-year-old granddaughter took over the 000 phone call so Mrs Thompson could continue CPR, while her eight-year-old grandson ran to alert the neighbours.

Mrs Thompson continued CPR until paramedics arrived to take over before medical staff at Grenfell hospital intervened and Mr Thompson was airlifted by helicopter to Orange Health Service.

Doctors told his family they didn't expect Mr Thompson to survive, but that they'd know more in 72 hours. Mr Thompson defied the odds and woke up the morning after. Despite the trauma and loss of oxygen to his brain, he recognised most of his family immediately, much to their relief, and improved slowly over the following five days but was unable to retain any new memories.

According to his family each day was like starting again; each time he heard the news of his own heart attack, it came as a shock, having not known of any heart problems previously.

On day six Mr Thompson was able to recall the name of a fellow patient, and the town she had returned home to, the day before. His family said it was a breakthrough moment, which has since been consistently built upon since the incident.

Since the heart attack Mr Thompson was hospitalised with influenza, before he was flown to Strathfield Private Hospital to undergo heart surgery.

"Grenfell residents have every reason to have great confidence in our local medical services. It's also important to recognise that children can be an excellent help in dire situations. Don't be scared to give them some responsibility. My granddaughter was screaming before taking the phone and being incredibly composed while talking to the emergency services operator.

"And her brother said he knew he had to be strong, because he didn't want his little sister to cry.

"The other thing that's come out of this really difficult time, is realising just how important it is, to learn CPR. I hadn't done a course since I was pregnant with my son, and he's now 38!" Janice said.

"But truly, it's stayed with me, and watching some of these paramedics shows over the years, I knew what to do.

"Everyone needs to learn. Maybe then, a higher percentage of people who have heart attacks in the home, will survive. We've heard there's only about a 5 percent survival rate, at the moment."