"On the anniversary of me dropping down dead, I'd like to thank the team at Asda who brought me back to life" – those are the words of Asda customer John Charnley who never thought he'd see another Christmas after suffering a cardiac arrest in the car park of our Wallsend store a year ago.
Colleagues led by Dean Johnson, who was store manager at the time, performed CPR and used a defibrillator to restart John's heart, while paramedics arrived within five minutes. As the anniversary of the incident approached, sixty-four-year-old John, a former locksmith and inventor, got in touch to express his gratitude and to say that everyone who helped him on the day is in his thoughts this Christmas.
He said: "I was clinically dead. It's still really emotional for me talking about it now. If it wasn't for the team at Asda I would be dead right now. They saved my life. I can't thank them enough for what they did and I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for them."
Dean, who now manages our Benton store, knew he had to act fast after a customer raised the alarm. While security colleague Lee Thompson dialled 999, Dean began performing CPR before using the store's defibrillator to shock John's heart.
Dean, pictured below, who is first aid trained, said: "We got the defibrillator as soon as we could. It's the first time I've used one, but it tells you what to do so you can concentrate on the patient without having to worry about reading instructions. I administered CPR and then shocked him to get his heart ticking. Within five minutes the ambulance arrived and they were only here for a couple of minutes before getting him off to hospital.
"My wife Sharon is a nurse who works in A&E and my eldest daughter Eleanor, who's 15, wants to be a nurse. We went to an induction day in Newcastle about two weeks before the incident where they talked about situations like this, so it was incredible timing to have that so fresh in my mind.
"Panic goes through your head at first, but the defibrillator talks you through it, which instantly helps calm you down so you can concentrate on the person you're helping.
"At the time you could see he was breathing again, which was such a relief, and the paramedics gave him some adrenalin, which really helped.
"In the middle of it adrenalin kicks in but when I was playing it over in my mind that night and thinking whether I could have done anything differently I realised I couldn't have done anything else.
"It was quite emotional at the time knowing we'd made a difference. Having a defibrillator in the store is a major thing – it was almost like someone was on my shoulder guiding me through what to do. I'm just so glad that John recovered – it's so good to hear."
John, who has suffered heart problems for a number of years, had just finished his shopping when he collapsed.
He said: "I'd just paid the cashier and was walking to my car. There were no problems, everything was normal. I lifted the boot up to put a bag in and I went out like a light! I got no warning whatsoever. It was instantaneous. After that I can't remember a thing until I woke up in Cramlington Hospital."