A young woman has told how her former teacher saved her life when she suffered a cardiac arrest during a visit to her old school.
Jess Howes, 17, lives with Catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (CPVT), a rare inherited heart rhythm disturbance found in young people, for which she takes medication.
But while popping in to her former high school to say hello to past teachers in March, Jess unexpectedly collapsed on the floor and suffered a cardiac arrest.
Luckily she was with a teacher who understood her condition from her time as a pupil and was able to give her chest compressions and use a defibrillator until the ambulance arrived, saving her life.
Since March, she has had to have two operations to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen again.
She now wants to share her story to raise awareness of her rare condition and the fact that heart conditions are not only found in older people.
“Sometimes it’s a shock to think I almost died,” Jess said, speaking to Mirror Online.
“I can still feel where he did the chest compressions.
“I can’t even really remember the day or even the week before that – it’s really bizarre – two weeks gone out of my brain.
“I’m glad I don’t remember it, that would have put me in more pain, mentally.”
Recalling her terrifying ordeal, Jess, from Manchester, said: “When I had the cardiac arrest – I’d been to my old high school to say hi to my teachers, and I ended up on my ex-head of year’s floor.
“I think I just said ‘hi’ and then collapsed.
“Luckily he understood my condition. He knew how to deal with it as my dad had told him about it while I was at the school.
“He gave me CPR – I can still feel where he did the chest compressions.
“I had defibrillation too.
“The ambulance came and moved me out of the classroom and did CPR and resuscitated me.
“When I woke up I was in a lot of pain – having a grown man’s weight pushed onto my chest with CPR, but it needed to be done.
“An air ambulance came out with a doctor on board and then I was taken to hospital in a normal ambulance.”
Jess, who studies health and social care at college, said she can’t remember a lot of what happened on that day and has had to ask others to piece everything together.
“People tell me what happened that day – I went to the bus stop and my parents saw me there.
“I can imagine it happening, but I don’t remember it.
“That week and a half of my life is just gone from my head.”
And in hospital she was delirious, but she says she now laughs with her family thinking back on some of the things she said at the time.
Jess has even shared a video of herself during her time in hospital, singing along with her sister.
Jess was diagnosed with CPVT at the age of 15.
She said she had suffered several episodes where her heart would speed up and would struggle to slow down, triggered by exercise, adrenalin and stress.
“We are not sure what triggered the cardiac arrest,” she said.
“I’m on tablets that are meant to stop that.”
Jess is hoping by sharing her story, she could help others.
“I feel like a lot of heart conditions people immediately associate with older people,” she said. “I wanted to share my story for others who might have the rare condition.”