Former mayor 'one of the luckiest people alive' after wife helps save his life
- Credit: Archant
He raised thousands to equip his home town with defibrillators and encouraged many to learn CPR life saving techniques.
Little did former March mayor Rob Skoulding know then that on a visit to a garden centre his own life was about to be saved by a combination of both.
Magpas, paramedics and a specialist hospital team responded – but all agreed it was his wife Laura who saved his life.
She recognised he was having a heart attack and her prompt application of CPR kept him alive until paramedics were able to take over with a defibrillator as Rob lay unconscious in the garden centre car park.
“I remember much of it only too well,” says Rob. “In the morning I had been working on a flat and going up and down three flights of stairs.
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“At lunchtime I said to Laura ‘shall we pop to look at that tree we would like for the garden?’”
Rob said he hadn’t felt “100 per cent” but thought a trip to the Van Hage Garden Centre at Peterborough would offer some relaxation.
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"I asked Laura if she would drive and she agreed,” he said.
“When we got there, I said ‘I think have heartburn’ and she said we would be quick.
“Half way round I said ‘do you mind if I go back to the car’. We both went back and she said ‘I’ll return the trolley’ but when she returned, she said my eyes had rolled back”.
Laura says “I noticed Rob’s lips were white”.
Rob quickly slipped into unconsciousness.
He said: “Laura later told me she saw two men walking past and called over and asked them to ring an ambulance urgently and then to help get me out of the car.
“As I lay on the ground she started CPR – the very CPR that she had learnt during training sessions we held when the defibrillators were being put up across town.”
Laura admits she panicked briefly “but then I just got on with it. I knew what to do and I was also being guided by a paramedic on the phone.
“Within five minutes the paramedics arrived and took over. Thank goodness for that.”
She said: “They cut Rob’s clothes and put the defibrillator straight on him to shock him. He only had one shot from the defibrillator but it then took a good hour to get him comfortable and ready to travel.”
Magpas air ambulance arrived and two doctors joined paramedics and Laura in an ambulance that took Rob to Kettering Hospital.
Rob said all he could remember was waking later in the day to be told he had been fitted with two stents, tiny tubes that are inserted into a blocked passageway to keep it open.
The heart attack was on March 4 and Rob remained in hospital for five days – because of Covid-19 he was not allowed to see Laura or family members.
“I did feel sorry for others who are in hospital, who are very ill, and loved ones could not come and see them,” said Rob.
“I think I must be one of the luckiest people alive.
“Doctors describe it as a ‘widow makers’ heart attack’ since many fail to recover.”
March has 37 defibrillators and Rob’s efforts has helped to provide 27 of them.
Each cost around £1,000 and a further £600 for a cabinet and maintenance and replacement batteries is ongoing.
“At the Christmas fair the year before last a man came up to us at our stall and thanked us. He said he wouldn’t have been alive today had it not been for a defibrillator in March.”
Rob, 63, a father of five, and grandfather of three, says defibrillators will remain a part of his life.
“I’ll be there; I’m not going to sit back but will keep going. “I am living proof that defibrillators save lives and I want everyone to have that chance,” he said.
His goal? To have everyone able to live within three minutes of one.