Chris Hickinbottom, 51, was clinically dead for moments laying without a pulse in his Parksville home after his heart gave out unexpectedly.
And his girlfriend of 12 years saved his life in what she describes as “one of the scariest experiences” she’s ever had to endure.
Trina Longhurst, 43, explains she and Hickinbottom were eating dinner in their quaint Corfield Street house one unassuming Saturday night in mid-October when suddenly her boyfriend, without saying a word, went into cardiac arrest.
“He just fell into me,” Longhurst told
The NEWS from her living room, where it all went down.
“I panicked and ran for the phone and called 911 immediately.”
Longhurst recalls the dispatcher on the other end of the phone told her “you need to perform CPR and you need to do it now.”
So she did.
Longhurst learned how to perform CPR more than 10 years ago, but in a state of fight-or-flight and with the help of the 911 dispatcher, she was able to remember exactly what to do.
In the process of performing CPR, she said she did “probably 600 compressions” and broke two of Hickinbottom’s ribs — a telltale sign she was doing it right.
It only took first responders five minutes to show up, but Longhurst admits it felt like a lifetime. She praised the work of the paramedics and firefighters who came and took over and were able to revive a heartbeat.
According to as news release from the provincial health ministry, with every minute that passes without treatment in a cardiac situation a person’s survival rate decreases by 10 per cent.
Hickinbottom was transported to Victoria General Hospital, where doctors performed open heart surgery and put him in an induced coma that lasted nearly two weeks.
When he came to, he had no idea what happened — but Longhurst was by his side and explained the whole thing, over and over.
Today it’s been almost six weeks since that near-fatal day.
Hickinbottom, a welder by trade, is growing stronger every day and said he’s eager to get back to work.
While what caused Hickinbottom’s heart to stop beating is still a mystery, the couple agreed to give up smoking for good.
“My doctor told me I shouldn’t buy a lottery ticket because I already won it,” said Hickinbottom.
He now has 10 major scars on his body, a large one on his chest and nine on his legs from the incisions doctors had to make during his surgery.
But he’s grateful to be alive.
And after that scare, his children are coming to visit all the way from Ontario — something he said he’s “really looking forward to.”
As for Longhurst, she’s been hailed as a hero for doing everything right in crucial moments by paramedics, firemen, doctors and nurses.
She’s humble and modest about the praise and said she’s just happy to have her boyfriend.
“Appreciate what you have,” she said, looking over at Hickinbottom. “The things you love could be taken away from you just like that.”