Kelvin's message of thanks for his life

KEEN karate fan Kelvin Abbott is today looking forward to a happy new year - a new year his family feared he might never see.Mr Abbott, 57, of Sprites Lane in Ipswich almost died after he collapsed with a heart attack after a lesson at Maidenhall Sports Centre.

KEEN karate fan Kelvin Abbott is today looking forward to a happy new year - a new year his family feared he might never see.

Mr Abbott, 57, of Sprites Lane in Ipswich almost died after he collapsed with a heart attack after a lesson at Maidenhall Sports Centre.

Quick reactions from centre staff and a nurse on the same course saved his life - but today he called on all the town's sports and leisure centres to have defibrillators installed.

Mr Abbott had just finished his course on November 20 and along with others sat down for a series of “warm down” exercises.

He said: “I felt a little faint, as everyone does from time to time, but the next thing I remember was waking up in hospital the next day.

“I don't remember anything about what happened there - I only know what I have been told but a lot of people worked very hard to keep me alive.”

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Trained staff at the centre and the nurse kept his heart beating with CPR until paramedics arrived just four minutes after the emergency call was made, but there was no defib machine in the sports centre.

The paramedics were able to restart his heart with their defib machine, but Mr Abbott warned that the lack of the equipment at the sports centre could have cost him his life.

He said: “I am very lucky. The ambulance crew were there very quickly and got my heart going again, but if they had not been there so fast it could have been very different.

“The people at the centre were wonderful and kept me going. I shall be going back as soon as I am strong enough to thank them personally.

“But it was the defib that really made the difference and I hope they soon get these installed in every sports centre.”

Mr Abbott was taken to Ipswich Hospital and treated in intensive care. One of the first people he saw there was paramedic Carl Friar who had worked hard to save his life at the sports centre.

He said: “Carl came in at about 5am the next morning and asked how I was feeling. I told him my chest felt a bit sore and he apologised but said that was his fault because he had to get my heart going again.”

After his condition was stabilised in Ipswich Hospital, Mr Abbot was sent to Papworth hospital near Cambridge for specialist tests.

They showed he needed a double by-pass operation, which was finally undertaken just before Christmas.

He said: “They sent me back to Ipswich but I had to stay in hospital before the operation because they were worried that my heart could stop again.”

He had his life-saving operation on December 20 and was in hospital for eight days before being allowed home on Friday.

Now the long period of recovery has started - but he knows it will be three or four months before he is fit to return to work as a maintenance engineer at Kesgrave.

He said: “I am very tired and having to take a lot of pills - about 16 to 18 a day, mainly painkillers.

“I can't do anything much but I am hoping to go for a very short walk to the end of the close today and build up from there.”

His operation meant that his family had to put off Christmas celebrations while he recovered in hospital.

Mrs Abbott said: “It has been a very worrying time for us all, but we had our Christmas Day on Saturday and Boxing Day on Sunday.”

And the family have been overwhelmed with messages of good wishes.

“I've still got a pile of get well soon cards that I haven't managed to get through yet,” said Mr Abbott. “It's all very emotional.”

MR ABBOTT'S close shave prompted him to back the Star's Spend a Little, Save a Life campaign - and he urged organisations across the area to install defibrillators.

He said: “They are not expensive and people can be trained to use them quite easily. I especially hope that the council will put them in sports centres where there could be people trained to use them.

“I was lucky because the crew were so near - but if there had been a defib there, it wouldn't have been quite such a panic.”

Ipswich council leisure spokeswoman Judy Terry said she had been aware of Mr Abbott's heart attack and knew that the staff at the centre had done well to help save his life.

She said in the light of this incident the council would look hard at the question of introducing defibrillators into sports centres.

She said: “This is something we really ought to examine in the new year - I don't know all the details about them but if they can help save lives they are obviously very important.

“I am pleased to hear that he is making a good recovery and obviously this experience is something we shall bear in mind when considering whether to install this equipment into the centres.”

SPEND a Little, Save a Life is an Evening Star campaign to get lifesaving heart equipment in all of Suffolk's busiest places.

The Star has teamed up with the East of England Ambulance Service to highlight the potential lifesaving importance of defibrillators.

Commonly known as defibs, the electric shock machines are relatively cheap, easy to use and are absolutely vital for cardiac arrest patients.

From big employers to public venues and bustling shops which see thousands cross their thresholds every day - all should be rallied to invest the £1,500 it costs to buy a defib.

The difference they can make is in no doubt as for every minute's delay in getting to a patient in cardiac arrest, the chances of survival reduce by ten per cent.

To help out, the Star is offering a £10 start-up kitty to the first 20 organisations who pledge to go ahead and buy a defib.

And the cardiac charity Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome UK is putting another £50 into the kitty.

To find out more about getting a defib, e-mail Jon Needle at