Tennis club member serves up lifesaving skills

MARK Atherton, who has featured as a paramedic as a television extra many times, was called into action for real at Priory Tennis Club.

He performed lifesaving CPR after 77-year-old Alan Carden suffered a heart attack during a Sunday morning match at the Stalybridge club.

And Mark puts his skills down to watching them being performed on the BBC television series Ambulance which he avidly watches.

Alan survived thanks to Mark’s heroic efforts and there was a tearful reunion at Priory where Alan and Mark were recently reunited for the first time since mid-July.

Mark, who lives in Guide Bridge, was also playing when the drama unfolded.

He said: “I was in the furthest court from the clubhouse when I suddenly heard screaming and shouting.

Alan Carden and Mark Atherton

“Initially I thought someone was robbing the clubhouse or something was on fire, but then I could see somebody lying on the ground.

“There were a lot of people there, but nobody was doing anything. I needed to do something as he was in a terrible state.”

Mark, 56, saw striking similarities to an incident which happened to an incident which happened about 30 years ago when a woman collapsed and died at one of fleet of ice cream vans he operates.

“Alan’s eyes were rolling, and he had turned blue. I knew if I did not do something quickly, he would not survive.”

Mark, who also works as a holiday rep for Solos, put Alan in a recovery position.

As Priory did not have a defibrillator at that time, somebody ran to adjoining Stalybridge Archery Club to borrow their machine.

Mark, who was assisted by member John Collins, worked on Alan for about 20 minutes until paramedics arrived.

He said: “When we rang for an ambulance there were three in the queue, and I kept working on Alan until the paramedics arrived.

“I was lucky to have watched paramedics performing CPR on Ambulance or I would not have known where to put my hands.

“When you watch programmes on television, you normally get out of the way and let the professionals taken over.

“However, they told me to carry on as I was doing such a good job and they get to work clearing Alan’s airways and taking bloods.

“When the crew put him in the ambulance, they thanked me and told me I had done a good job.”

Mark admitted it has been an “emotional rollercoaster” since July 11.

He explained: “I am not an emotional person, but I was surprised the effect it has had on me.

“On the day, I went into the corner afterwards and had a cry. I also couldn’t sleep for a week.

“I read up about the effects and even experts struggle. The British Heart Foundation say it is something that will remain with you. I often replay it in my mind and sometimes I will burst into tears.

“I keep asking myself why I did it? I knew Alan was dead and I had nothing to lose.”

Mark added that his experience as a holiday rep was also invaluable.

He continued: “People look to me to solve problems which I am used to doing.

“It is quite amusing when I am working as a paramedic as a television extra, the director always presume they are using real ones and we should know what to do.”

Mark, who has worked on Doctors, Coronation Street and the sequel to the 1970 film The Railway Children, added watching television medical programmes had given him confidence to perform CPR.

Alan, who used to be one of Priory’s most accomplished tennis players, spent one month in hospital, where the cause of them cardiac arrest remains a mystery.

“There was no blockage in the heart and nothing showed up on the scan but I have had a ICD (implantable cardioverter-defibrillator) fitted just is case it happens again,” he explained.

Alan, who only knew Mark on nodding terms beforehand, added it was emotional to meet him to say thank you for saving his life.

He said: “Mark did a good job and my wife Pat and I cannot thank him enough. It was nice to meet him and emotional for my family.

“I cannot remember what happened on the day which came as a shock as I had been in good health and never had any problems with my heart.”

Indeed, until the cardiac arrest Alan was still working part time helping maintain tennis courts and bowling greens. This entailed brushing the courts and mowing the greens and surrounds.

Alan, who had previously won Tameside League doubles titles, added he was still enjoying his Sunday morning game until his health scare.

“I am feeling fine but, whether I carry on playing, I don’t know at this stage,” he said.


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