Kayaker’s heart stopped for over three hours after he capsized in freezing river

A kayaker’s heart stopped for more than three hours after he capsized in a freezing river.

Paul Curtis, 50, suffered a cardiac arrest after being submerged in ice cold water for five minutes.

His body temperature plummeted to just 23 degrees, far below the normal range of 36-38.

Paramedics were unable to restart the accountant’s heart because he was so cold.

But Paul survived after being connected to an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine, which took over the work of his lungs and heart and warmed his blood.

He said: “I’ve been given a second chance so I have to think carefully about whether I’ll kayak again.

“The fact that I’m here today is testament to the skill and dedication of everyone who cared for me.”

Paul’s partner, Christine Cordle, who is a community nurse, added: “It’s a miracle Paul is with us today.

“If just one link in Paul’s chain of survival – which included his friend who first administered CPR, the paramedics, air ambulance, A&E and critical care unit at King’s (College Hospital, London) – had broken he wouldn’t be with us now.”

Paul capsized twice in the River Medway in Kent during a kayaking trip in April this year.

With the help of a friend he managed to return to a clubhouse where he suffered a cardiac arrest and hypothermia.

The fellow canoeist administered emergency CPR and kept him alive until paramedics took over.

Paul was put on a mechanical chest compression system in the air ambulance to keep his heart going until he arrived at King’s College Hospital, London.

Then he was attached to the ECMO machine, which slowly brought him ‘back to life’.

Doctor say his heart was “quivering” and not beating properly of its own accord for three hours.

Critical care consultant Dr Georg Auzinger was one of those who helped treat Paul.

He said: “Normal body temperature is around 36 to 37 degrees, but Paul’s dropped down to just 23 degrees, causing his heart to stop beating in a rhythm that could sustain life.

“Although he had no cardiac output for more than three hours, thankfully,

Paul received the necessary first aid both at the scene and on his way to King’s to ensure his brain was not starved of oxygen.”

Paul, from Gillingham, Kent, is an amateur athlete and has previously completed triathlons, iron man events and ultra-marathons.