This week, the Herald is speaking to Kiwis who have survived illnesses, accidents and crimes that almost killed them, as part of our I Should be Dead series.
On the day of his stag do, two weeks before his wedding, Adam Booker’s heart stopped beating for more than 30 minutes.
But now, almost 10 months later, the 35-year-old will finally tie the knot – and this time the wedding will hold even more meaning for the couple.
Booker, a police officer and keen rugby player, was playing Zorb soccer in Stanley Point as part of his stag party in mid-March when he went into cardiac arrest.
“About five-minutes into it they tell me they just saw me fall over. They thought I was just joking.”
His friends quickly realized it was no joke and pulled him out of the Zorb and started CPR.
A passer-by saw what was happening and ran to the Ngataringa Tennis Club to get the automated external defibrillator that had been installed there after being donated by comedian Paul Ego only days before.
By the time the passer-by made it back to him with the defibrillator Booker had turned purple and had to be shocked at least twice to get his heart pumping again before St John arrived.
Booker had no heart beat for 35-40 minutes and doctors told him, had it not been for his friends performing CPR and the defibrillator he probably wouldn’t be alive today.
Fiancee Rachael Montagu had been out for a walk at the time and came home to find a heap of missed calls. Then her brother-in-law rang. Booker was not breathing and had not been for the last 20 minutes, she was told.
She rushed to the hospital and arrived to find him hooked up to machines and in an induced coma which he remained in for two days.
During that time Montagu had no idea whether the man who was supposed to become her husband in two weeks was going to live or die.
The first time doctors tried to wake him up, nothing happened. “That was pretty devastating for me.”
But she stayed by his bedside and as the day progressed he started breathing on his own.
Booker said there was a real fear that he could wake up with brain injuries because of the lack of oxygen to his brain while his heart was not pumping.
“Rachael was beside herself for the first week or so while it was touch and go – if there was going to be lasting damage or if I was going to come out of it normal,” Booker said.
When he came to he had no idea what had happened or where he was but, despite being dead for half an hour, the only lasting effect has been that he can’t remember the week before he collapsed or the two weeks after.
Tests showed he had a genetic condition which had caused the cardiac arrest so a pacemaker was put in.
After two weeks, the nightmare was over and Booker was sent home where the couple hosted a barbecue with all the guests who had arrived in town for what should have been their wedding.
Two months later he was back at work and, while he could no longer play rugby, he jumped into coaching.
While the couple both agree Booker was incredibly lucky, they know having a defibrillator near-by saved his life.
Because of that Booker is now a vocal proponent for having the devices in as many places as possible and is somewhat of an ambassador for Auckland company Heart Saver which sells and trains people in using automated external defibrillators.
“Without it, I wouldn’t be alive. The availability of them is just massive,” he said. “In a perfect would there would be one in every Government building, every house, every sports club.”
Day-to-day life is now very much back to normal but Booker said the experience had made him more appreciative of the smaller things in life.
He was now more conscious of making the most of his proximity to One Tree Hill and took every opportunity to enjoy the walk and the “spectacular” view. He also made an effort to visit family more often.
As for the wedding, he agreed the whole experience would make January 20 an even more special day.
“It made me realize that we can get through everything,” Booker said.
For Montagu, getting married now meant even more to her than it had before.
“I’m more keen to get married now. The first time around, the idea of a wedding was fun,” she said. “Now…actually all that really matters is the ceremony and getting married.”
Source : New Zealand Herald