Cornwall LivingIssue #115

Beating the odds

With lifesavers all around us, it just goes to show that miracles do still happen. 

When 63-year-old Amazon delivery driver Chris Barendt collapsed at the wheel during his route on 30th March 2021, the outcome didn’t look good. The sudden halt prompted drivers in nearby vehicles – including RNLI lifeguards Tom McRitchie and Graham Fisher – to pull over to help. Smashing the window, they pulled Chris on to the road to commence CPR along with passer-by Colin Grant, while they awaited the emergency services.

“Everyone says it’s a miracle. Those on scene that day all thought I was dead – I technically was for 27 minutes,” says Chris. “It is testament to the actions of the lifeguards, the passers-by, the ambulance crew and the air ambulance that I am here today. What can I say – thanks just isn’t enough!”

Chris was shocked seven times with a defibrillator by responders from the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust before he regained a pulse. Landing in a nearby field in just 12 minutes, the Cornwall Air Ambulance paramedics sedated Chris and put him on a ventilator to transfer him to Royal Cornwall Hospital.

Thomas Hennessy Jones, Critical Care Paramedic for Cornwall Air Ambulance, explains: “Fewer than 1 in 10 people survive an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. For Chris to not only survive, but to be back to full health is remarkable. I don’t meet many patients that have had such a successful story. The key to success is the chain of survival: early intervention, early CPR, early defibrillation, and post-resuscitation care. It’s a team effort, only when all the links come together does it work for that person.” Just 48 hours later, doctors at the hospital were amazed when Chris was sat up in bed talking. He spent two weeks in hospital before returning to his home in Penryn. 

Chris wanted to share his story to mark Restart a Heart Day in October – a campaign which encourages as many people as possible to learn lifesaving CPR and defibrillation skills: “For people to survive in these situations, it’s really important that everyone knows how to do this. The actions that happened in the first five minutes and beyond made all the difference, it gave someone like me a chance.” 


Cornwall Air Ambulance

01637 889926