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Precision landing for tennis playing patient

John Walster and his wife Jackie, from West Alvington near Kingsbridge, were enjoying a weekend away at the Manor House Hotel near Okehampton in May last year, reunited with 23 friends from the amateur dramatic group they had been part of when they lived in East Horsley in Surrey.  The hotel offers sports, activities and crafts for all guests and the Walsters were enjoying a game of tennis doubles with friends Jack Griffith and Jeff Luther when John collapsed. 

Rushing to his aid, his wife Jackie started mouth-to-mouth while Jeff did compressions on John’s chest. Meanwhile, Jack ran back to the hotel to request first aid assistance.  Fortunately, the hotel had recently purchased a defibrillator and, indeed, John was the first patient to benefit.

A local land ambulance crew arrived, followed swiftly by an aircrew from Devon Air Ambulance. Jackie recalls, “There was such a huge sense of relief when the professional help arrived.  We knew that John was in cardiac arrest and we were so pleased to see the paramedics. The next noise we heard was the helicopter hovering overhead and, to our complete amazement and admiration, we watched the pilot skillfully land the aircraft on the other half of the tennis court to where we were looking after John!  With the net still in place and the fencing all around, it was definitely a precision landing – but it meant that the aircrew were with us immediately.  Their care and clinical skills brought John back to us and stabilised him for the flight to hospital. He was then flown to the heart unit at RD&E at Wonford where an ICD (implantable cardioverter defibrillator) was fitted.”

Fortunately, John went on to make a full recovery and was delighted that, in May last year, he and Jackie could return for another reunion with all their friends at Manor House Hotel in Okehampton. This time the weekend passed without incident! Whilst now able to enjoy all his usual activities, such as walking, skiing and gardening, Jackie explained that tennis was still on hold.  “We’re working up to that,” she explained. “I know John will probably be fine but we’re so grateful to everyone for their help last year, from the staff at Manor House, to the land crew, the aircrew and the team at RD&E, that we just don’t want to push our luck!”

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