Ellesmere Port man had just finished counting election votes when heart stopped

An Ellesmere Port man who suffered a cardiac arrest at the 2019 General Election count is taking on a 100km walking challenge.

Garry Rowland, 68, from Great Sutton was working on the General Election count on December 13, 2019, when he collapsed unexpectedly.

The father-of-two was at the Ellesmere Port Sports Village in the early hours of the morning packing boxes away when the incident occurred.

An off-duty nurse came to Garry’s aid and performed CPR, whilst a colleague at the sports centre retrieved a defibrillator and used the device to shock Garry’s heart three times.

Garry was then taken to the Countess of Chester Hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU), where he regained consciousness the following day.

Garry, who struggled to walk after the life-changing incident, is now aiming to walk a total of 100km by the end of the month to raise funds for the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

Garry said: “All the votes were in and we were packing the boxes away to be taken back to the council offices.

“We’d done most of them and I was standing up talking to a colleague. There was nothing to indicate what would happen next – I felt no sign of any pain.

“People I worked with said they couldn’t believe it. One minute I’m working and the next I’m on the floor unconscious and unresponsive.”

Luckily, an off-duty nurse was at the sports centre and rushed to Garry’s aid to perform CPR.

Whilst others called 999, a colleague used a defibrillator to shock Garry’s heart three times.

An ambulance then rushed Garry to the Countess of Chester Hospital, where he regained consciousness the next day.

Garry, aged 68, added: “My wife Adele had received a phone call to say that she needed to come to the hospital.

“She arrived with my daughters Daniele and Melanie and that day was Melanie’s 24th birthday.

“They saw me lying there in the ICU with tubes coming out of me and it was just devastating for them.

“When I woke up, I was in disbelief. They say when you’re on the way out your life flashes before your eyes but that hadn’t been the case for me.

“It was like someone had switched the lights off in me.

“I was so thankful to those who came to my aid and the hospital for the incredible care I received.

“Looking back, it makes me realise just how lucky I was.”

Medics discovered that Garry’s cardiac arrest had been caused by ventricular fibrillation – a condition where the heart beats in an abnormal rhythm.

Garry required a pacemaker with a defibrillator fitted to control future abnormal heart rhythms.

After spending Christmas 2019 in hospital, he was discharged on New Year’s Eve and began his recovery.

He said: “Before the cardiac arrest I would go to the gym four times a week and was considered very fit for my age

“After I left hospital, I found it difficult to walk 10 paces. I couldn’t even get up the stairs on my own at first.

“The hardest part of my recovery was the mental health impact. I was frightened to cross the road on my own, thinking I would collapse again.”

Garry slowly built up his fitness levels through cardiac rehabilitation. He has been continuing to exercise ever since and is now able to walk and cycle.

To give back, Garry decided he would take on a 100km walking challenge throughout January in aid of the BHF, where he has been joined by his family.

So far, the family have raised almost £800.

Garry added: “Because of the national lockdown, we’ve been doing all of our walks around the local area, averaging about six kilometres a day.

“Some days it can be very challenging, and the weather isn’t always the best. But we always manage to get out each day and we know it’s for a fantastic cause. We’ve been blown away by all of the support we have received so far.”

Around 139,000 people are living with a heart and circulatory disease in the Cheshire & Merseyside area – and every 80 minutes, someone dies from these devastating conditions.

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The money raised by Garry and his family will help the BHF continue to fund research into heart and circulatory diseases, such as heart disease, stroke and vascular dementia, along with their risk factors including high blood pressure and diabetes.

Due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the charity’s UK research investment has halved this year.

Leah Goodhind, BHF’s Fundraising Manager, said: “It is touching to hear that Garry will be taking on this very personal challenge in aid of the BHF, at a time when the support of the public has never been more needed.

“The devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic means that the BHF’s investment in new research has fallen by around £50 million this year.

“This research is entirely fuelled by the generous donations of the public, and that’s why we need their support now, more than ever.

To donate to Garry’s 100km challenge, visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/grbhf

Cheshire Live – Cheshire