Quick thinking theatre staff sprung into action to save the life of a Newport man who went into cardiac arrest.

Retired postal worker and BT engineer John Higgins had popped into town on the bus, when he started feeling unwell.

The 79-year-old headed down to the river front for some fresh air, but his condition worsened, and he went into the nearby Riverfront Theatre complaining of crushing chest pains.

It quickly became apparent that Mr Higgins’s situation was severe, but fortunately for him, theatre staff member Jamie Marshall were on hand, and took the actions needed which ultimately saved his life.

Initially, Mr Higgins asked that the two men call him an ambulance, but, while waiting, his condition deteriorated, his eyes rolling backwards, and his breathing stopping.

Luckily, duty manager Jamie, who was working her final shift at the theatre, was the first aider on site at the time, and she quickly used the on-site defibrillator, shocking Mr Higgins, before starting CPR.

An agonising 90 seconds later, he started breathing again.

Meanwhile, fellow theatre employee Andrew Irving was on the phone with the Welsh Ambulance Service, letting them know that the situation had rapidly changed.

Six minutes after that call, on September 10, paramedics arrived, and, less than two hours after stepping off the bus in Newport, Mr Higgins was being wheeled into an operating theatre in Cardiff.

Here, he was fitted with a stent.

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What happened next?

Barely five weeks later, Mr Higgins, a widower, continues to recover well at home, and he has paid tribute to both Riverfront staff, and the Welsh Ambulance Service.

He said: “The weather had been great in the weeks prior and I’d been up the allotment working a lot.

“Just the day before I mowed the grass, so I thought I’d have a quiet day and a nosey into town.

“I was on the bus wearing my facemask and my chest felt a bit tight.

“I blamed it on the mask and the crowded bus.

“Getting off the bus I wanted some fresh air so went down the river front but still didn’t feel good and even tried to be sick.

“I knew it wasn’t right so I walked into the theatre and asked them to call me an ambulance as I was having a heart attack.

“What they did was amazing, I can never thank them enough.“Everybody there was fantastic and has given me a second chance and more time to spend with my daughter who has recently returned from living abroad.”

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What have theatre staff said?

Speaking after the incident, married mother-of-two Jamie Marshall, from Usk, said: “It was such a bizarre day.

“I’d been at the theatre for 17 years and it was my very last shift before leaving for a new role.

“I was sat on reception with Andrew going through a handover note when a gentleman walked in and presented himself to a colleague complaining of chest pains.

“He was dripping in sweat and asked them to call an ambulance.

“I was the trained first aider for the theatre and overheard this, so I came round the counter and spoke to the patient, who himself realised the signs of what may be happening.

“There were still public in the building so I asked John if he wanted to sit somewhere quieter and we moved to a more secluded spot.

“John said he wanted to lie down so I helped him to the floor, which in one way was a good thing as he said he didn’t feel well.

“His eyes rolled back in his head and his arms flung up into the air.

“I thought he was fitting so tried to put him in the recovery position – that’s when he stopped breathing.

“I performed CPR for around a minute and a half when John started breathing again and came round,” said Jamie.

“He started asking me if I was okay and what I had done to him.”

South Wales Argus: PICTURED: (L-R) Jamie Marshall, John Higgins, Andrew Irving and Rob Nihan.PICTURED: (L-R) Jamie Marshall, John Higgins, Andrew Irving and Rob Nihan.

Statement from the ambulance service

First on scene was paramedic and duty operations manager for Newport, Rob Nihan.

He said: “I arrived to find John lying on the floor and conversing.

“I noticed the defibrillator had been deployed and checked with Jamie and Andrew if they had shocked him or carried out CPR and began to check him over.

“They had done an amazing job and it really was quite remarkable to see a cardiac arrest patient so alert so quickly.

“This really does highlight the importance of all employers having a trained first aider and defibrillator on their premises as you never know when it may be needed to save a life.

“We thank everybody at the Riverfront who helped John that day and hope this encourages more businesses across Wales to ensure they have a medically trained person on site.”

Saturday, October 16 marks National Restart a Heart Day – which is aimed at raising awareness of the importance of bystander CPR.

The Welsh Ambulance Service is also running its Shoctober campaign – designed to educate the public about the importance of early CPR and defibrillation.

More information can be found online, by searching for @WelshAmbPECI or #Shoctober on Twitter.