Retired nurse collapses while teaching CPR, saved by trainees

  David Knowles, a retired nurse, was saved by his trainees after a cardiac arrest during a CPR demonstration.

The last thing retired nurse David Knowles expected when he began a demonstration of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was that he would need his trainees to put their learning into immediate practice – on him.

Retired nurse David Knowles with his wife Nova.

The St John Ambulance volunteer from Devon was delivering a lecture to members of his church group when he started feeling unwell.

‘I had just started my lecture and we were talking about CPR,’ said Mr Knowles, who has volunteered with St John Ambulance for 11 years and manages the charity’s Exeter unit.

Passed out

‘The more senior members of the group had asked for a demonstration, and as I was instructing one of them I suddenly felt dizzy and weak, so I had to lie down.

‘She thought I was role playing, but I told her it was real and that I was going to lose consciousness.

‘I told her what to do to save my life, then passed out.’

Mr Knowles had gone into cardiac arrest, but his trainees called 999 and gave him CPR until an ambulance crew arrived to help him.


‘I’m told I came to briefly and was talking to the paramedics about my condition, but the next thing I remember is waking up in hospital two and a half weeks later,’ he added.

At the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, Mr Knowles had a further cardiac arrest and a pulmonary embolism, but – after having three stents fitted to open his arteries, along with an internal defibrillator implanted in his chest, ready to shock his heart into a normal rhythm if it has any more problems – he is now at home and being looked after by his wife, Nova, who is also a trained nurse.

This month St John Ambulance marks 140 years of first aid training in England.

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