Allan Duncan, second from left, with Swan Active staff Lauren Goddard, Allan Duncan and Kaitlyn Cuevas who rushed to his aid while he was suffering a heart attack.

Swan Active member’s heart-stopping story

A Swan Active member was able to survive a heart-attack thanks to the professional training received by himself and those around him.
July 4, 2024

CITY of Swan resident Allan Duncan has a heart-stopping story with a life-saving message – and he’s still alive to tell it because of his training and the training of those who rushed to his aid.

Mr Duncan, 75, was about 250m into his regular 750m swim at Swan Active Ballajura last month when he felt pain in his wrists.

As someone who swims several times a week, he knew that was not normal.

And his extensive training in emergency response told him it was not something to take lightly.

“My training says, ‘if something’s wrong, get out’,” Mr Duncan said.

“I could feel my chest getting tighter as I was getting out of the water.”

Mr Duncan’s concerns were well-founded – his life was in danger and time was running out.

He took a seat on a nearby bench, inserted his hearing aids and told the nearest Swan Active staff member, Eesha Kalyan, he was having a heart attack.

To his relief, Ms Kalyan wasted no time with questions, instead rushing to get help.

Moments later, three other staff members were on the scene – Kaitlyn Cuevas, David Pengelly and Lauren Goddard.

They were all qualified lifeguards with first aid and CPR training.

“Kaitlyn said, ‘the ambulance is on its way’, nice and loud,” Mr Duncan said.

The Swan Active staff members did their best to keep Mr Duncan calm and focused, while they liaised with St John WA on the phone.

“I don’t know what training they had but David was standing by with a defibrillator, Kaitlyn was coordinating and Lauren was chatting to me,” Mr Duncan said.

“So I was thinking, ‘I’m in good hands’. I mean, I’ve had all this training and this is what I would tell people to do.”

The paramedics arrived within minutes and helped Mr Duncan to the waiting ambulance.

His last memory from the drive to hospital was noticing they were travelling along Beaufort Street.

When he regained consciousness, he was in Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital with a very sore chest from where a paramedic had performed CPR.

It was the second time he had suffered a heart attack and the second time he had been brought back to life in the back of an ambulance.

He said the sense of gratitude he felt for the staff members and the paramedics was “unfathomable”.

“You get another chance. It’s like a rebirth,” Mr Duncan said.

“It’s not start again, because you’re still 75, you’re still deaf and you still have aches and pains, but you go back to your life.

“I’ve got a two-year-old grandson and another one due in early October. These are the special times, I have discovered.”

Mr Duncan said the Swan Active staff members “did everything right” and were the first link in the chain that gave him another chance.

Now back swimming laps at Swan Active Ballajura, he has a life-saving message to share with the community.

He said his experiences and the emergency training he received throughout his career had taught him not to take risks when it came to your heart.

If something felt wrong, the best course of action was to act immediately and boldly.

Don’t ignore it, don’t wait and see, and don’t try to make your own way to hospital.

Call an ambulance.

“What you’ll need is a paramedic with a defibrillator, and you only get that by calling an ambulance, so don’t prevaricate,” Mr Duncan said.

“They might come along and say, ‘it’s angina’, but if you guess wrong, you’re dead.

“You’ll only survive if you act now.”

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