Cheadle resident and keen swimmer Christina Stylianou, is back in the pool and enjoying the activity she loves thanks to the quick thinking of lifeguards and staff at Life Leisure Cheadle. But things could have been very different.
When 44-year-old Christina went into cardiac arrest during one of her weekly swim sessions last October, staff at the centre – including lifeguards, swimming instructors and managers – administered CPR and used the pool defibrillator to restart her heart, actions which saved her life.
Such was the severity of the situation, it took four shocks before Christina’s heart began beating again.
Matt Danby, duty manager on the day, recalls: “All we knew at first was that Christina was in difficulty. Two of our instructors – Ashley Wedge and William Goodayle – were already in the pool and so went to her aid straight away, quickly followed by lifeguard Daniel Woolley.
“I was poolside with two more of our lifeguards, Zoe Fisher and apprentice Bradley McClendon. Between us we got Christina out of the pool as fast as we could, where it became clear that she wasn’t breathing. We started giving CPR but couldn’t feel a pulse so made the decision to use the defibrillator. The paramedics have since told us that if we hadn’t done this, Christina would not have survived.”
Christina, who has been swimming at Cheadle for over 30 years, has no recollection of the event and was shocked to discover what had happened.
Christina said: “Swimming is something that I have always enjoyed. When I was young, I lost a leg to bone Cancer so swimming has been a really great way for me to exercise and stay fit.
“With no previous underlying heart problems, and the fact I don’t smoke and lead quite a healthy lifestyle, I would never have thought this could happen.”
Following a 7-week stay in Manchester Royal
Infirmary and multiple tests, Christina was fitted with her own defibrillator – a pacemaker-like device which kicks in should her heartbeat stop.
As well as demanding lengthy physical recuperation, it has also taken Christina a long time to process what happened. But now, back at work and back swimming at her favourite pool, she couldn’t be more thankful to the whole team involved, and is hoping that sharing her story will help others.
Christina said: “The team at Cheadle were so good – and fast! The doctors found I had no water at all in my lungs which shows how quickly I was rescued from the water. I’m so grateful. And I would also like to thank David Lornie and Evie West who I believe were the Life Leisure members of staff who were liaising with the ambulance service.
“I think it is common for people to think that lifeguards at pools have an easy life, and that they are just there to stop bad behaviour and things like that. But I owe my life to this team and to the technology they used. I know defibrillators are becoming more and more common in public places but I don’t think people understand just how important they are.”
To recognise the actions of the Cheadle team who came to Christina’s aid that day, Life Leisure presented them with a special award at a recent ceremony for its whole workforce – over 500 employees in total. The team involved, who work across different centres and so haven’t all been together since the incident, also recently met up with Christina who wanted to say a special thank you.
Malcolm McPhail, Life Leisure CEO, said: “We are all so pleased that Christina has recovered and is back joking with staff and swimmers at Cheadle. She is a fantastic character and such a known face at the centre. And I couldn’t be more proud of the staff involved in saving Christina’s life that day. In the heat of the moment, it is easy to forget things we’ve learned but these guys called on both their training and their courage to help in every way they could.”