A smiling and fit Gerard is pictured back left with his band the Sandflys.
A smiling and fit Gerard is pictured back left with his band the Sandflys.

How school heroes saved a life in Noosa

ONE of the popular members of local group the Sandflys is thanking his guardian angels for keeping him alive and strumming.

Without their cool intervention, Gerard O’Brien could have easily been swapping his guitar for a harp, to while away eternity in the Great Beyond after dying on the job.

It’s been a year almost to the day since Gerard was working as a self-management and wellbeing support officer at Sunshine Beach State School, when a 20-year education support “gig” almost came to a sudden end.

And Gerard can’t let the November 23 anniversary of his near fatal cardiac arrest pass without thanking his lifesaving workmates at the school.

“With no warning, I suffered a catastrophic heart attack in the administration building, collapsing unconscious on the ground,” Gerard said.

“My colleagues immediately started CPR and, working as a team, kept me alive until the ambulance arrived sometime later.

“It would be great if people were aware how amazing those people are and how important knowing CPR and first aid is, because it literally saved my life.

“I think they went through an incredible tough time, but they are absolute heroes,” he said.

He said Maree Thompson, the school business services manager, admin officers Kirsten McLennan and Rachel Ladd along with Year 4 teacher Warren Blandford, deputy principal Tracy Blandford and even Billy the groundsman, swung into emergency response.

Maree said Gerard had popped into her office that morning and mentioned by the way that he had been having chest pains that morning.

“He just fell off the chair, and basically we had to swing into action.

“He did briefly speak after this, ‘what just happened’ and he stayed conscious for a very short period of time.

“The amazing team that I work with just took my instruction and we did what we needed to do.

“We do training every year, the whole staff here … first aid every three years and CPR every 12 months.”

Maree said she proud of the team effort.

“I continued with compressions as per the (ambulance) instruction over the phone until the first team of ambos arrived, and continued with compressions under their instruction until they were set up with defib,” she said.

“I had a staff member on the phone letting us know the instructions, one of the floor beside me supporting me, another one counting out the compressions, and two more standing near by ready to step in when needed.

“Other team members then stepped in to do compressions between defib charges,” Maree said.

“Further paramedic teams kept arriving, each group seemingly able to offer higher levels of treatment for Ged.”

She said in all there were five emergency response teams with staff and they worked on him for “probably close to an hour in my office before they could move him”.

Gerard said “the amazing ambos shocked me several times to bring me back and start my heart again”.

He said then it was over to the “incredible staff at Sunshine Coast University Hospital who performed lifesaving surgery on me and nursed me back to health”.

“Thanks to the efforts of all these amazing people, I am now back supporting kids and their families again four days a week at Sunshine Beach and Peregian Springs state schools.

“I’m feeling great, surfing most days, playing guitar with the Sandflys around the place and generally making a nuisance of myself,” Gerard said.

Maree said the staff at “Sunshine are an amazing group of people and the support for each other was fantastic”

“Ged has been a very popular staff member for a long time at Sunshine, so it was a huge shock to our close-knit staff here at Sunshine.”

The day after their CPR intervention, Maree rang her first aid instructor to let her know how their training had been put to such good use.

“She’d trained us so well, we had the confidence to step in,” Maree said.

“We knew what we had to do, we knew the process.”