Bury St Edmunds: Pilot says the angels were watching over him when he suffered heart attack while flying at 1,500 feet
10:56 03 March 2014
John Lord firmly believes the angels were watching over him as he suffered a heart attack at 1,500 feet.
He had taken off in his two-seater, single propellor aeroplane to take photographs over west Suffolk but felt chest pains as he was flying between Bury St Edmunds and Pakenham.
The 65-year-old, who has been a pilot for 25 years, managed to fly his Streak Shadow back to his home airfield at Gaines Hall Farm, in Wickhambrook, where he suffered a cardiac arrest and was then taken by ambulance to the West Suffolk Hospital.
He needed further treatment and was transferred to Papworth Hospital but was back home less than a week after the drama with his wife Angela and yesterday told of his ordeal and also thanked the “wonderful” paramedics and medical staff that treated him.
“It’s been a bit of a wake up call for me and when I landed and the paramedics were with me I was told that I said ‘I think I’m going to die’.
“The next think I knew I was getting CPR treatment before I was taken to hospital. I think the angels were with me at the end of the day and helped me get the plane back on the ground.”
Mr Lord, who works from his home in Lark Valley Drive, Fornham St Martin, is due to retire from his job as a technical consultant for support sales for the phone giants EE in two week’s time and was also planning to take a holiday in Florida this month.
But that has now all been put on hold while his piloting days have also been ended.
“I’ve decided that’s it now and I don’t want to put my wife through anything like that again. I’ve decided to keep my feet on the ground now and fly drones and unmanned aeronautical vehicles (UAEs) which all carry cameras,” said Mr Lord, who is secetary of the Bury St Edmunds Photographic Society.
He had wholesome words of praise for paramedic Dale Boulston and the crew who helped save his life and also for staff at both West Suffolk Hospial and Papworth.
“They are just fantastic and without them it would have been so very different. I just cannot thank them enough; they are all fantastic.”
The drama unfolded just over a week ago when Mr Lord, who had always been in great health, decided to take to the skies.
He was 20 minutes into his flight on Saturday, February 22, when he was gripped by crippling chest pains.
“I don’t drink or smoke and I always try to walk about five miles a day.
“But I remember having slight chest pains last August when we were on holiday in Austria. I just put it down to the heavy camera I was carrying.
“I came back home and did not have any pains until I started walking again in Gran Canaria just before Christmas but when I came home the pains seemed to go away. I booked in to see the doctor and funnily enough I had a appointment for this Tuesday (tomorrow).
“On the day of the flight I was planning to go to Norwich to buy a camera lens but it was such a beautiful day and I said to myself ‘I cannot miss this’. The weather conditions were perfect and off I went.
“I got the plane ready and wanted to do some pictures of the windmill at Pakenham. I had two cameras running with one strapped round my head.
“I took off and flew over Bury towards Pakenham then the chest pains came on. I took some pictures of Pakenham and headed down to Lavenham over Cockfield but the pains started to get stronger so I thought let’s get back home.”
Mr Lord landed and taxied along the airstrip and phoned his close friend Frank Claydon who called the ambulance. He managed to walk to the vehicle and paramedics but the next thing he knew he woke up and was being given CPR treatment.
His 61-year-wife and the couple’s daughter Marsha Brame, who works at the West Suffolk, were told of Mr Lord’s ordeal and linked up with him at the hospital.
Mr Lord returned home from Papworth on Thursday and is now on the road to recovery.
“But that’s it as far as my flying day are concerned,” he said.
“I’ve had 25 years and it’s been fantastic but you just have to move on. I don’t want to put any more stress on my family and for my wife to worry that it will happen again.”
And Mrs Lord added: “It was a weekend that we do not want to go through again.”
An ambulance spokesman said: “It’s lucky for everyone involved that John was able to land the plane safely and fortunately our hard working crew was then on hand to give immediate lifesaving treatment.
“People who suffer a cardiac arrest outside of hospital have less than a 20 per cent chance of survival. In this case our crews were able to carry out chest compressions and give a shock from the defibrillator as soon as John went into cardiac arrest.
“This undoubtedly made a real difference to John surviving and making such a good recovery.”