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Patient story: Tom Conwell

Tom Conwell
Tom Conwell

On the 15th of January 2021 I was surfing at Dicky Beach with two friends. After about an hour they both left the water and we agreed to meet up for a coffee.

I tried to get a wave in and when I finally did, it seems that I must have blacked out, because an off-duty volunteer lifesaver found me floating face down in the water. After calling for help, he managed to drag me out of the water and put me in the recovery position. Someone went down the beach and asked the lifeguard to come and bring the AED.

In the meantime, an off-duty ICU nurse came out of the surf and checked my pulse. I didn’t have one, so her and the lifesaver started CPR. After about six minutes and three shocks from the AED, I came back to life and was taken to Sunshine Coast University Hospital where I was put into an induced coma and admitted to ICU.

My wife was told by a doctor to prepare for brain damage when I woke up. Twenty-four hours later I woke up and everything seemed okay. Two days later I had an angiogram where it was discovered I had four blocked arteries, the left anterior descending (LAD) artery being over 90% blocked. I was told I would need open heart surgery and a triple bypass.

With that I was transferred to Sunshine Coast University Private Hospital (SCUPH) and their cardiac ward. I was introduced to Dr Graeme Hart and Dr Peter Larsen and surgery was booked for five days later. I had the surgery and it all went well, however I developed pneumonia because of the salt water in my lungs. I had excellent care from the team at SCUPH and was sent home 10 days later.

I have now returned to full-time work and am back surfing. Many of my friends have now been checked out - most were fine but one needed four stents in his LAD artery. He was only 48 years old!

I am grateful for my second chance at life and intend to look after myself, my family and friends as best I can.

Tom Cornwell surfing
Tom catching his first wave, 12 weeks after surgery

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