Football legend David Ginola has told of the day he “died” for 10 minutes before an electric pulse from a defibrillator restarted his heart.
He spoke as the Daily Express launched the Complete The Circuit campaign to strengthen the UK’s network of life-saving devices.
The French sportsman, 56, received five high energy shocks after suffering a sudden cardiac arrest on the pitch.
He said: “It was a hell of a day. I was playing a charity football game in the south of France when all of a sudden I just collapsed.
“I was ‘dead’. It came out of the blue for everyone. But I’m alive today because someone used a defibrillator.”
There was no sign that anything was wrong on that sunny day in May 2016. David was looking forward to the match, followed by an afternoon of golf and dinner with friends.
He recalled: “I retired from football in 2002 so I didn’t have the same kind of daily training, but I was feeling good and looking after myself.”
Onlookers sprang into action when he collapsed, performing CPR until a defibrillator arrived. Medics shocked him three times before asking his friends and family whether to continue.
He said: “Fortunately my heart started to beat again after five shocks. Afterwards we said, ‘Can you imagine if we had stopped after three?’”
David was rushed to hospital and received a quadruple heart bypass to divert blood around four arteries that had become clogged with cholesterol.
The blockages were thought to be linked to his hereditary risk of heart disease – his mother died of a heart attack in 2005 and his dad also suffers problems.
The former Newcastle United and Spurs star was left with five broken ribs from the force of the life-saving CPR, but made a quick recovery and was back to his TV presenting duties within a month.
In a twist of fate, he met his now girlfriend Maeva Denat on the same day as his brush with death.
David said it took a while to process what had happened and he now takes more time to appreciate the everyday beauty in life.
He explained: “The mental shock came more from the idea of dying, rather than just the physical recovery.
“The surgeon told me that nine out of ten people who experience this die. For me to still be alive was a miracle. It was very difficult to comprehend. I asked, ‘Why? Who decided it wasn’t my time?’”
He added: “I’m not really concerned about tomorrow because I’m not afraid of dying anymore. I was not there for 10 minutes and I didn’t suffer at all.
“It was a sweet death, without feeling anything. It’s very difficult to explain to someone who has never had that sort of experience.”
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David spoke about the harrowing episode as he backed a Daily Express campaign to ensure people can access defibrillators in emergencies.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF), which is supporting our campaign, estimates there are more than 100,000 machines across the UK.
However, only 66,000 have been registered on The Circuit – the national network used by the emergency services to direct 999 callers to the nearest one.
Our Complete The Circuit crusade is calling on members of the public to help spread the word and get more registered on the national network.
David, a BHF ambassador, said: “I would encourage all defibrillator guardians to register their devices on The Circuit. It’s vital.
“The aim is to register 100,000 by the end of the year. That will save lives.”
The devices work by delivering a high energy electric shock to restart the heart. Anyone can use one without training.
Once turned on, the defibrillator tells the user how to attach the pads. It then scans the patient’s heart rhythm and advises to shock if needed.
Defibrillators can be the difference between life and death but are used by bystanders in less than one in 20 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests.
How you can help
If you know of a defibrillator in a public place, workplace or club you can check whether it’s already on The Circuit at www.defibfinder.uk. If it is not registered, you could try to contact the defibrillator’s guardian and let them know about the network.
Defibrillator guardians can find out more about The Circuit and register their devices at www.thecircuit.uk.
Help to spread the word about the campaign on social media using the hashtag #CompleteTheCircuit.
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