'I fell face-first while playing football with my son – my heart had stopped'

Andrew in a red football shirt
Andrew Barnett has always been a keen sportsman -Credit:British Heart Foundation

When Andrew Barnett went to play a game of football with his son he had no idea he would be waking up in hospital unable to remember anything from the day he came close to death. It was December 2018 and he took his son to football practice in Cardiff where they were having a lads vs dads game.

"I don't remember playing in the game," the now 50-year-old said. Andrew was super-fit and went to the gym four times a week and also has a career in the sports industry.

Without any warning signs his heart stopped. "From what everyone tells me afterwards I pretty much just fell straight on my face."

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Recalling what happened Andrew said: "I don't remember playing in the game. I consider myself to be very fit – we are competitive people in the sports industry. I used to go to the gym four or five times a week, swim and take part in weights classes.

"I'd taken my son to football practice where they had a 'dads vs boys' Christmas football match. I was running around as normal, kicking the ball. From what everyone tells me afterwards I pretty much just fell straight on my face."

His life was saved by strangers at Eastern Leisure Centre on that fateful day in December 2018. Andrew had suffered a cardiac arrest and the rapid response from those nearby saved his life.

Ben Clarke, 38, the duty manager at the leisure centre, was in his office when he heard about Andrew's collapse. He said: "Someone ran from the pitch into the centre to raise the alarm so I rushed out with a few colleagues to assess the situation. We do CPR and defibrillator training once a month at the centre but you never think you're going to have to use it. I took responsibility for CPR while my colleague took charge of the defibrillator. It was an anxious wait for emergency services to arrive. The whole thing was like an out-of-body experience but we were so relieved when we found out that Andrew had survived."

Andrew's heart was restarted after a single shock from the defibrillator. When the paramedics arrived they did all their checks and took over before Andrew was taken to hospital by ambulance.

Andrew said: "I don't remember playing in the game and I remember very little of the day before. There were no warning signs. I wasn't struggling or feeling under the weather. I don't think I really knew what a cardiac arrest was until the team in the hospital explained it to me. Doctors told me that being fit and healthy helped my outcome but I know I am very fortunate that I was in a location that had trained staff."

Once in hospital Andrew was treated for a blocked coronary artery with a stent and medication and has since returned to an active life once more. He has also developed a friendship with the stranger that saved his life.

Andrew and Ben
Andrew and Ben have struck up a friendship after Ben saved his life -Credit:British Heart Foundation

Ben added: "We've become friends out of a tough situation and now share a common cause that means a lot to us. We are here to show the importance of learning CPR."

Andrew has now teamed up with football icons including Graeme Souness and David Ginola to encourage people in Wales, and across the UK, to master CPR. The campaign from the British Heart Foundation and Sky Bet is called Every Minute Matters campaign.

Andrew is using his real-life experience to persuade more than a quarter of a million people to pick up the crucial life-saving skill. Making up the 'Re-Starting 11', Andrew joined fellow cardiac arrest survivors Tom Lockyer, Fabrice Muamba, and Wigan Athletic striker Charlie Wyke on the famed turf of Wembley Stadium.

Wales international Lockyer said: "Meeting Andrew and the rest of our unique team of survivors was a great day. Having this shared experience with people across the football spectrum meant the group came together on the same level to highlight the importance of CPR training. Hopefully us coming together will inspire more people to learn CPR and help save more lives." For the latest health and Covid news sign up to our newsletter here.

Andrew and the 'Re-Starting 11'
Andrew and the 'Re-Starting 11' -Credit:British Heart Foundation

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, chief executive at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Andrew's story is a powerful reminder that CPR saves lives. These lifesaving skills can really be the difference between life and death." For more information on learning CPR visit bhf.org.uk/revivr.