Gym owner saves the life of Sunderland father days before his daughter’s wedding

A father says he is lucky to be alive after suffering a heart attack while playing squash at his local gym.

Andy Trafford collapsed on the squash courts at Ashbrooke Sports Club in Sunderland on September 1 – just two days before his daughter Emma was due to get married.

Fortunately, Mark Banks – who owns the onsite gym The Fitness Bank – saw what was happening and was able to rush to his aid.

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Mark administered a defibrillator shock and then performed CPR on Andy for 20 minutes until paramedics arrived and took over, before the 57-year-old was rushed to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.

Speaking to the Chronicle, Andy explained that he believes everybody should have CPR training.

He said: “If Mark wasn’t there, it would have been a different outcome. A lot of people don’t know what to do. The message is that it is vital that people do CPR training.

“Even if you only ever use it once in your lifetime, it’s worth it. I don’t think Andy has ever used it on somebody before and hopefully he will never have to again.

“In my former career I was in the fire brigade, so I’ve used CPR a lot on other people – but that was part of my job, it’s not part of Andy’s.”

Andy suffered the heart attack just two days before his daughter Emma got married. While he missed the ceremony, staff arranged for his wife and daughter to visit him in the hospital grounds.

Andy added: “That really made my day. The staff were so, so nice – they were brilliant. They tried to do a video link from the ward but it didn’t work so they let them come through.

“People call the NHS this and that, but it is absolutely priceless.”

What makes Andy’s story all the more remarkable is that Mark wasn’t even supposed to be in his gym that day.

A projector fitter had been delayed and a client had cancelled a session after turning their ankle, meaning Mark, by a stroke of fortune, was in a room overlooking the squash court where Andy collapsed.

He said: “It’s a bit surreal to be honest. It was one of those situations where it was just unbelievable that I was even in the building.

“It sends shivers down my back. If I had been downstairs or doing the work at 11.30am as planned, or if Andy had been on any of the other four squash courts, I wouldn’t have seen him.

Mark Banks, owner of The Fitness Bank in Sunderland who saved the life of Andy Trafford after he suffered a heart attack
Mark Banks, owner of The Fitness Bank in Sunderland who saved the life of Andy Trafford after he suffered a heart attack

“I ran down and his face was purple. I thought he was choking but I realised he had no pulse. I did CPR for 20 minutes, it was exhausting. I had nearly given up but I gave him a massive breath and heard him breathe.

“The paramedics arrived and they were working on him for 40 minutes before he went to the Freeman.”

Andy also believes that everyone should learn how to perform CPR.

He added: “The CPR saved his life. CPR and first aid training is so important.

“It’s life-changing for me because how do you have a better achievement? It’s totally changed my mindset on things.

“I’ve seen him since and he looks strong. It was good to see him back to normal.”

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Chronicle Live – Sunderland