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Christchurch aquatic centre highlights the value of training and access to defibrillators during an emergency

Christchurch aquatic centre highlights the value of training and access to defibrillators during an emergency
October 20, 2021

Christchurch City Council has shared the effective and impressive team response of lifeguards at Jellie Park aquatic centre when 74-year-old Minh Lengoc went into sudden cardiac arrest on 24th May.

The retired scientist had spent about 45 minutes in the pool – as he did most days - and was gathering up his gear when he went into sudden cardiac arrest and collapsed poolside.

Lifeguards Kristina Sammut and Nicole Sullivan were quickly at his side. Finding him unresponsive and without a pulse, they immediately started cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) while other staff called 111 and ran to fetch one of the facility’s two Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) and oxygen.

Both Sammut and Sullivan were taught CPR as part of their training to be lifeguards but Sullivan admits that doing CPR on a real person is very different to doing it on a mannequin.

Lifeguard Supervisor Tegan Lawrence had heard the emergency call come over the radio and rushed to the pool to help with the effort to resuscitate Dr Lengoc.

She gave him oxygen while the other two lifeguards took turns doing compressions. They then used the AED to shock Dr Lengoc’s heart back into a normal rhythm. The AED shocked him three times in the short time it took for the paramedics to arrive on the scene.

Dr Lengoc was rushed to hospital where he spent five days in an induced coma and underwent open heart surgery.

“The doctors said I was a very lucky person because nine out of 10 people would have died,’’ says Dr Lengoc.

Doctors were initially concerned the cardiac arrest may have starved his brain of oxygen and caused irreparable damage, but miraculously Dr Lengoc was able to be discharged from hospital after three weeks.

One of the first things he did after his discharge was return to Jellie Park to thank the staff who saved his life. It was very emotional moment for him and his wife, Thao, who at one stage had been planning for his funeral.

It was emotional too for all the staff who had rushed to his aid.

“When we got the opportunity to see him again, I hugged him and bawled my eyes out,’’ admits Sullivan.

“It’s amazing to see Minh now and see how well he looks,’’ adds Aquatics Supervisor Rebecca Fraser, who also helped with the resuscitation effort.

Christchurch City Council Head of Recreation, Sports and Events Nigel Cox says he is incredibly proud of how the entire team at Jellie Park responded to the emergency.

Cox added “they stayed calm and applied their emergency training and as a result Dr Lengoc is still alive today. You couldn’t ask for a better outcome than that.  The staff have formed a real bond with Dr Lengoc and it is going to be really great for them to see Dr Lengoc back swimming at the pool.”

Dr Lengoc is planning to re-start his regular swim sessions at Jellie Park in November.

Marcus Bird, National Product Manager New Zealand Red Cross, says high quality CPR and early defibrilation are critical to survival from sudden cardiac arrest.

Bird advises "48% of victims survive when an AED is used before the ambulance arrives but drops to 11% if an AED is not available. The number of AEDs at Council-run facilities and ongoing training undertaken by staff ensure Christchurch residents are in safe hands.

"The First Aid team at Red Cross are thrilled to hear about great outcomes like what happened to Dr Lengoc.''

Image: Tegan Lawrence, Minh Lengoc, Rebecca Fraser and Nicole Sullivan are reunited at Jellie Park pool.

Related Articles

13th November 2017 - Upgrades for Christchurch’s Pioneer and Jellie Park Recreation and Sport Centres

9th September 2016 - Jellie Park spa pool reopened

12th August 2016 - Jellie Park spa pool closed until further notice

4th August 2008 - Christchurch’s Jellie Park aquatic facility reopens

23rd May 2019 - Lifesaving defibrillators delivered to Macleay aquatic centres

21st November 2017 - Victorian Government offers more life-saving defibrillators for sports clubs

14th June 2017 - NSW Government announces funding program for defibrillators at sports clubs

24th March 2017 - Socceroos legend Tim Cahill backs defibrillators initiative

22nd January 2017 - FFA provides defibrillators across Australia’s elite football leagues

3rd October 2016 - ASSA and Guy Leech partner to promote defibrillators in aquatic centres

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