Musician still keeping the beat after cardiac arrest thanks to Llanfyllin firefighters

Eddy Gartry (centre with guitar) with friend and fellow musician Lydia Homer (centre) with the retained fire crew from Llanfyllin who helped save Eddy’s life.

A POPULAR musician is still keeping the beat after his cardiac arrest thanks to a fire and rescue crew in rural Powys.

The team of retained firefighters from Llanfyllin, who also act as Level 1 out of hospital cardiac arrest call responders for the Welsh Ambulance Service (WAST), were first on scene to a cardiac arrest that occurred in their village.

Using their training and equipment, the team of six were able to successfully resuscitate 73-year-old patient Eddy Gartry.

Kevin Williams from Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, who was the officer in charge that afternoon, said: “We received the call and the printout said Co-Response – that’s how we know it’s a medical emergency rather than a fire incident.

“We got to the address and we were unable to fit the appliance (fire engine) down the street due to parked cars, so we had to run down the street.

“There was a neighbour outside waving us down and when we got inside there was a lady on the phone to ambulance control performing CPR.

“She was quite flustered, but that’s not surprising given the situation.

“The lads got straight over to the patient with the defibrillator and grab-bag of kit that we use and commenced chest compressions whilst a couple of others set up the defibrillator.

“They put the defibrillator on him and it said to shock him, which they did three times, and soon after the machine instructed us to carry on with the chest compressions.

“He was coming more and more around then, and as he did the ambulance crews turned up and took over.

“Often in these situations it’s not great news, but as stressful as it was the lads were all buzzing and on a high when we got back to the station to know we had helped save a life.

“The patient is known to a couple of them and has spoken to them since.

“He’s very grateful and fair play they really did do a great job.”

After further treatment and stabilisation from two Welsh Ambulance crews, the patient, Eddy Gartry, was taken by road to the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital where he underwent surgery to fit an internal defibrillator to his heart.

He remained in hospital for eight days.

Eddy, who lives with his partner Jenny and is still a professional musician who has played with the likes of Eric Clapton and Muddy Waters over the years, said: “It was Monday and my band had a gig that night so the piano player, Lydia Homer, was at my house and we were sat in the lounge writing down what songs to play that evening.

“I remember saying to Lydia that I felt a bit odd, a bit light headed, a bit squishy.

“That’s when I fell face down on the couch, no warning, no chest pain, just like sudden death syndrome.

“Lydia tells me there was a rattle going on with my breathing and I’d rolled onto the floor by then.”

Lydia, who is also from Llanfyllin, immediately rang 999 and began pumping Eddy’s chest which kept him going until professional help arrived.

He continued: “The first responder fire team turned up quickly with the defibrillator and shocked me.

“Without them I think I would have been dead.

“I’m hoping I can give myself a second life.

“I know I’m knocking on a bit, but I’ve got extra inspiration now.

“My life was saved undoubtedly by Lydia and the first responders.

“The ambulance crews were great too and they got me to the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital for surgery to fit a defibrillator in my chest so if it ever happens again it can shock me back to life.

“You think you’re immortal don’t you, and I’d taken up smoking again during lockdown and never drank to excess but was often having a glass of wine – but all those lousy habits are gone now, it doesn’t bother me at all.”

Speaking of the importance of CPR knowledge and availability of defibrillators, Eddy said: “The more people that know how to do it the more lives can be saved and it’s fantastic, especially in rural communities that we have the fire service as first responders.

“I can’t thank them enough and all the staff at Shrewsbury and Telford hospitals who looked after me and help get me on my feet again.”

Judith Bryce, Assistant Director of Operations, (National Operations and Support Operations) for WAST, said: “This is a great example of how working with fire and rescue colleagues in rural communities can help save lives.

“We are glad that a number of teams across the country are now responding with us for patients who have suffered a cardiac arrest or who may need some assistance following a fall.

“Along with our network of dedicated Community First Responders it really helps to increase resilience in communities across Wales and improve outcomes for patients.

“The team at Llanfyllin did extremely well here and should be very proud.”

Eddy is recovering well and has a string of gigs coming up across the summer with his group The Big Magic Dance Band.

He said: “I’ve been given a second chance and as I get fitter I’m looking forward to playing live music again.

“I’m lucky I can still do it.

“The show must go on.”