Fraser Thomas

Living with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

I am one of the few lucky parents as my son, Fraser, survived a full cardiac arrest while playing football last year. He had no previous symptoms or illness and was saved thanks to two medical students who happened to be playing football that day and also a mobile defibrillator that had recently been acquired by the sports club.

In September 2008, Fraser decided to try out for the Glasgow University football team at the Garscube Sports Centre. He went along hoping to use this as a good way of keeping fit while studying at University.

Fraser did not know anyone, least of all the two people who were later to save his life. As luck would have it, Gary and Devin were also playing football that day and came to Fraser’s aid immediately when he collapsed while in the middle of a match. Gary and Devin, who were 1st and 3rd year medical students, realised right away that Fraser had stopped breathing and had no pulse. They took turns in administering CPR.

Another fortunate turn of events revealed a portable heart defibrillator was in the first aid kit at the sports centre. Gary and Devin decided to use it, despite never having used one before and miraculously Fraser’s heart started beating again.

Both the boys followed Fraser in the ambulance to make sure he was alright and were allowed to see him briefly before going on their way.

By the time my husband, Fraser’s brother and myself arrived, Fraser was awake but confused by what had happened. We then learned the devastating news that Fraser suffers from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

After following a recent story of the professional footballer Phil O’Donnell’s tragic death, we realised how fortunate we were that Fraser had survived. Fraser is now on medication and has had an implantable cardioverter defibrillator inserted into his chest. He will never play football again but that is a small price to pay for being alive.

We spoke to Gary and Devin, by telephone, and Fraser met up with them when he returned to University to thank them personally. However, now that the shock of what has happened to Fraser has started to ease, we are aware of how lucky we are that so many people have helped Fraser.

Among many, the foresight of the staff at the Garscube Sports Centre for having a defibrillator and the wonderful staff at the coronary care unit in the Western Infirmary, who treated us with such kindness at a difficult time.

Gary and Devin were heroes that day for realising so quickly how ill Fraser was and for having the courage to not only administer CPR, but to have a go at using the defibrillator for the first time. There is no doubt that they and the defibrillator saved Fraser’s life.

Kathryn Thomas

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