Swimmer thanks pool staff for saving life - twice

An elderly swimmer has thanked lifeguards for saving his life twice by returning to swim at the same pool in Wiltshire.

Ivor Pope suffered two sudden cardiac arrests in the space of two years while swimming at the Link Centre in Swindon, and was given CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) both times by quick-thinking leisure centre staff.

The 75-year-old, from Grange Park, Swindon, is a former National and European Masters swimming champion and was completing a 4km swim the first time it happened in January 2008.

"My wife Ann was watching and I said to her 'I'm going to do a couple more lengths and then get out'," he said. "I don't remember anything after that and Ann said the next thing she saw was me face down and not moving in the pool."

A lifeguard dragged him out of the water and his colleagues performed CPR until the Great Western Ambulance paramedics arrived from an ambulance that had been parked just 50 metres away.

After paramedics applied shocks to his heart, he was admitted to the Great Western Hospital's intensive care unit and later underwent a triple heart bypass at Bristol Royal Infirmary.

A month after being released, he developed a blockage in one of his lung's main arteries but was later signed off by cardiac specialists to lead a normal life. After a six-week cardio rehab course at the Link Centre he started his favourite exercise of swimming again.

The second time, in December 2009, he was surrounded by a team of lifeguards who were taking part in lifesaving training in the pool. The staff, many of whom were present the last time Mr Pope swam into difficulties, used CPR and an automatic external defibrillator, which was bought after his initial cardiac arrest, to re-establish his heart rhythm.

Paramedics again took him to the Great Western Hospital and it was decided that he would be fitted with a defibrillator which gives out measured shocks to re-establish regular heart beats. He has been told by surgeons he should have no further problems from his heart and has been given the all-clear to swim again.

Mr Pope said: "The staff at the Link Centre were amazing and if it wasn't for them I wouldn't be here today. I can't thank them enough. The nurses at the Great Western Hospital kept asking me to do their Lottery numbers because they said I was so lucky. So Ann and I did the Lottery ourselves and we kept winning small amounts twice a week for about six weeks."