Joondalup Health Campus
Part of Ramsay Health Care


Teamwork by local teachers saves colleague’s life

May 14, 2019

Prendiville Catholic College Humanities teacher Mark Vivian was in just the right place and at the right time recently when he suffered a Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) - surrounded by colleagues who were fully trained in CPR, and most importantly, at a school with a defibrillator on site.

The fit, active grandfather says he had just finished a slow jog at the end of the Inter-House Cross Country when he collapsed.

“I’d just been talking with my colleague, Renea Mayer, when she turned around for a few seconds to talk to a student.  When she turned back to me I was on the ground,” he said.

Four teachers worked together to save Mark – two taking turns to perform CPR, one calling an ambulance and another running to get the defibrillator.

Off-duty police officer and Prendiville parent Paul McDonagh also assisted the teachers with CPR.

“They saved my life,” Mark said. “The school encourages all teachers to participate in a first-aid training course every year – and I am so grateful for the teamwork, proficiency and composure shown by my colleagues; Marius Ndiaye, Renea Mayer, Sarah Fogliani and Boston Williamson, because CPR is something that you can’t do on your own for long."

Mark said he was also tremendously appreciative of the generosity and foresight shown by the Prendiville Parents & Friends (P & F) Association, who donated three defibrillators to the College, and was incredibly touched by the concern and love shown by College Principal and Deputies.

“They accompanied me to the hospital and kept in regular contact.  I couldn’t ask for a more supportive boss or such caring colleagues,” he said. 

“I must also thank the ambulance officers who arrived and took over from my colleagues and the staff who cared for me on the Coronary Care Unit at JHC.”

Director of Cardiology at Joondalup Health Campus, Clinical Professor Jenny Deague, confirmed that the quick-actions of Prendiville Catholic College staff had indeed saved him.

“You could not have asked for a more perfect resuscitation,” she said. “I truly praise those teachers because they did an unbelievably good job.

Shocked parents and students rallied, forming a line from the oval to the road, to guide the ambulance, when it arrived, to the exact location where Mark had collapsed – in a gesture that Mark says epitomises the school spirit. 

“It is a top school; the teachers are so generous and giving of their time and expertise, the students are a real credit to themselves and to their parents. In short, we have an unbelievable sense of community and last week just showed me how much everybody pulls together and cares,” Mark said.

School psychologists were also involved in debriefing and supporting all involved – both those who were involved and bystanders.

In hospital, cardiologist Dr Justin Ng implanted Mark with an ICD device, which sits just under the skin and combines a pacemaker and defibrillator.

“This device means that if Mark’s heart ever stops again, he will receive a near-immediate shock to get it going,” Dr Ng explained.

Professor Deague said Mark had arrived in the Emergency Department around 5.30pm at a time when cardiologist Dr Wasing Taggu had just finished working in the hospital’s cardiac catheterisation lab.

“He scrubbed out and raced down to the ED to take over the care of Mark,” she said.  “Over the course of the following days Mark was stabilised, started on medication and had the ICD inserted – and four days later he was fit to go home,” she said.

“The professionalism and teamwork of the Cardiology team at JHC, including the doctors and nursing staff on the Coronary Care Unit was exemplary.”

Professor Deague, who also sits on the National Heart Foundation Board, said this story was a timely reminder of the importance of early CPR.

“Early CPR can make the difference between life and death in sudden cardiac arrest so the main thing to remember is to take action quickly and start chest compressions – you don’t need to worry about how many breaths and how many compressions, you just need to get started,” she said. 

“Fear of getting it wrong can sometimes stop a by-stander from commencing CPR. And this year nearly thirty thousand Australians could die from cardiac arrest because too few bystanders have basic CPR skills.”

She added that if a person becomes unconscious and is not breathing the current recommended steps are:

1. Call for help – yell loudly to those around you to call for an ambulance and locate the nearest automated external defibrillator

2. Start chest compressions - with the palm of your hand push hard and fast in the centre of the chest. 

3. Continue chest compressions at a rate of 100-120 beats per minute – that’s about two compressions every second (think to the beat of the song ‘Stayin’ Alive’) until a defibrillator is located or the ambulance arrives.