Gorebridge dad backs British Heart Foundation campaign following near death experience

Andy and Paula Westaby.
Andy and Paula Westaby.

A Gorebridge dad, who survived a cardiac arrest after collapsing in front of his family at a local park run, is backing a charity Christmas campaign to fund research into heart and circulatory diseases.

Andy Westaby (49)had just crossed the finishing line at Vogrie Country Park earlier this year when he passed out. Seconds later he was fighting for his life. Thankfully first responders were on hand to perform CPR and had access to a defibrillator. Andy was rushed to hospital, where he was later found to have a previously undiagnosed heart condition.

“I don’t really recall much of what happened,” explained Andy.

“I remember doing the run and, in particular, passing a couple of people who I knew fairly close to the end. I was pushing myself for a decent time. I stopped my watch as I reached the finish point and the next thing I knew I was waking up in hospital.”

Andy was told his cardiac arrest was the result of excessive strain on his heart caused by congenital heart valve disease. He underwent surgery to replace the valve a week later. Now well on the road to recovery, Andy and his family are backing British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland’s Christmas Wish Campaign, asking the public to donate to the BHF to fund life-saving research into heart and circulatory diseases and their causes. They’re also urging more of us to learn CPR.

“I was very lucky that I collapsed at the park run finish line,” explained Andy, who is all too aware the outcome could have been very different. There are around 3,500 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in Scotland each year but the survival rate is just one in 12.

Andy continued: “There was a defibrillator within 10 metres of me. There were trained first aiders on hand and other participants who were medics who ran to help.

I’ve since read statistics regarding surviving a cardiac arrest outside of hospital and they make for scary reading. I’m so grateful to all those people who helped save my life that day, those who funded the defibrillator and everyone who looked after my family who had to witness it all. It’s also made me realise just how important it is that more of us know what to do, should we find ourselves in an emergency situation.

“It is amazing what modern medicine can do.

“The surgeon told me that valve replacement surgery is considered ‘routine’, and this is partly due to the important research that is funded by the BHF. The surgery is often less invasive than in the past, leading to quicker recovery times and therefore reduces the after-effects of surgery.

“Continued research is vital to keep such improvements happening.”

Andy’s experience and diagnosis prompted his wife Paula to run the Scottish 10k this summer to raise money to help fund BHF research, and she’s encouraging others to support the charity this festive season.

“I think research is so important,” said Paula.

“The more scientists can understand about heart disease, the more likely conditions can be identified and treated earlier, and hopefully this means less people finding out through having cardiac arrests, like Andy.”

Here in Scotland, the BHF funds £66 million of world leading science into heart and circulatory diseases including heart attack, stroke and vascular dementia. The charity also supports 240 researchers at institutions across the nation, including the Centres of Research Excellence in Edinburgh and Glasgow, working to find the breakthroughs that can help the 720,000 people in Scotland living with heart and circulatory diseases. This funding is generated entirely from public donations.

David McColgan, BHF Scotland acting head, said: “Stories like Andy’s inspire and drive us to make more discoveries and keep more hearts beating. With your help this Christmas, we can help grant the wishes of families like the Westabys across the country by funding more research. With nearly three in ten of us in Scotland dying from heart and circulatory diseases, it’s vital that we do all we can to bring and keep families together.

“From congenital heart disease to vascular dementia and strokes, we fund research that changes and saves lives and your donation can help us beat heartbreak forever.”