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Health News

Alive, despite his pulse stopping for an hour

A man who almost drowned after being dragged into a whirlpool has made a "miraculous" recovery, despite his pulse stopping for almost an hour.

John Deeks, an architectural technician, was sucked under by a powerful wave when he was swimming off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa.

Two bathers pulled Mr Deeks out of the water after a shark spotter standing on the clifftop saw his body face-down in the sea. A doctor who had been sunbathing on the beach rushed over to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Mr Deeks, 35, from Colliers Wood, south London, had been swimming at Glencairn, a beach known for having a reef break which causes unusual currents.

He cannot remember the near-drowning incident, though he suspects it occurred when a wave pushed him under the water. Even those who rescued him have no idea of how long he could have been in the water before he was noticed.

Dr James Laing, who began resuscitation on Mr Deeks at the beach, said: "I don't know how long he had been in the water but I started resuscitation on him while someone else called paramedics. It was between 12 to 15 minutes before they arrived and were able to use advanced techniques to revive him."

Darren Zimmerman, station commander at the nearby National Sea Rescue Institute Office, said he believed that Mr Deeks' heart stopped beating for at least 40 minutes. He added: "The surf was coming in so we had to move him up the beach and into an ambulance.

"We don't know how long he was in the water but he must have been without a pulse for between 40 and 60 minutes."

Treated at Cape Town's Victoria hospital for almost a week, with three days spent on a ventilator, Mr Deeks made such a quick recovery that he was discharged on Wednesday. He said: "It's a miracle I survived. I feel lucky to be alive. Maybe my time just wasn't up."

Doctors have said they were amazed by his recovery. According to Mr Zimmerman, only 5 per cent of those given cardiopulmonary resuscitation survive, and those who do make it often suffer neurological damage. "Most of those who survive end up with neurological problems, difficulties with speech or more serious problems. Some survive for a week or two and then die", he said. "What happened to Mr Deeks is remarkable. For him to recover so quickly and with no obvious medical problems is a miracle – something I've never seen before."

Mr Deeks had gone to spend time with his family in a picturesque part of Cape Town when the accident happened. His mother, Diana Deeks, said: "I live close to the beach and saw something was going on. I knew something was wrong when he didn't come home so I phoned the police and they said that there had been a drowning."

She added: "I went cold, called the hospital and found out John was alive. It seems that everything was in place for a miracle. If the doctor hadn't been there, or the shark spotter, he wouldn't be with us."

Mr Deeks' girlfriend, Rosie Avalon, 21, from Southend-on-Sea, Essex, flew out to see him for a happy reunion on Wednesday. Mr Deeks said: "She was pretty shocked about what happened. I will go swimming again, but I will be very careful."