Welsh schoolboy thanks paramedic who saved his life after double cardiac-arrest

Ioan Kennard in hospital in Italy after his cardiac arrest. Credit: Ioan Kennard in hospital in Italy after his cardiac arrest. Family photo

A 15 year-old boy who had a heart attack on two separate occasions has thanked the paramedic who saved his life – twice.Ioan Kennard, of Miskin in Rhondda Cynon Taf, was holidaying in Italy last August when he fell unconscious while swimming in the sea.Quick-thinking Dave Moodley, a Welsh Ambulance Service paramedic who was on holiday with Ioan’s family, stepped in and delivered CPR which saved his life.

Then in January this year Ioan collapsed and stopped breathing while walking to catch the school bus.By chance, off-duty Dave saw the commotion and intervened once again to resuscitate the teenager.Ioan, now 17, credits paramedic and long-time family friend, Dave, for saving his life twice.

Dave Moodley has been a Welsh Ambulance Service paramedic since 2009. Credit: Welsh Ambulance Service.

Ioan was born with a congenital heart defect and had already undergone two lots of surgery in childhood before his sudden cardiac arrest in Italy last year.His mother Rachael, who was joined on the holiday in Umbria by husband Gwion and the couple’s youngest son Arwel, then 13, recalls: “We’d decided to spend a day at the beach, and after navigating the crowds, the children went to swim in the sea.“Minutes later, I saw three people pull an unconscious person from the water, and as I ran to help them, I realised it was Ioan.“My first reaction was to get Dave, who took complete control of the situation and began to perform CPR.“He later told us he found the experience of saving Ioan's life a difficult event to process.“In his words, it was like working on his own son.”

Dave and Ioan watching the Welsh Ambulance Service’s staff awards ceremony. Credit: Family photo / Welsh Ambulance Service

Dave, who was on holiday with wife Catherine and the couple’s two children, Bethan, 13, and Benjamin, 11, said: “It was unclear at first whether Ioan got into difficulty in the water which led to his cardiac arrest, or whether his cardiac arrest had led to his apparent difficulty in the water.“The fact he had no water in his lungs suggests his cardiac arrest came while he was in the water – but despite his cardiac history, this still came completely out of the blue.

“Fortunately, there were lifeguards on the beach who were able to retrieve a defibrillator that we could also use to deliver a shock to Ioan.”Ioan was airlifted to a hospital in Italy where he remained on life support for a week, and spent a further week on a neurological ward before his discharge after an apparent full recovery.

The Kennard and Moodley families. Credit: Family photo / Welsh Ambulance Service.

 But in January of this year, while walking to catch the school bus with his younger brother, the Ysgol Llanhari pupil collapsed again without warning.An off-duty Dave, who had just dropped his daughter off at school, intervened for a second time.“It’s a bizarre sequence of events when you think about it,” said Dave, who joined the Welsh Ambulance Service in 2009.“I was returning home after dropping my daughter to school when I saw two coaches pulled into a lay-by, and a schoolboy on the floor.“I assumed that perhaps he’d been clipped by one of the coaches so I pulled in to help, and that’s when I realised not only that it was Ioan, but that he was in cardiac arrest again.“I began to give CPR and was supported by an off-duty nurse, who is also a family friend, while someone else went to retrieve a defibrillator.“As a paramedic in a cardiac arrest scenario, the adrenaline kicks in and you just go into autopilot.Dave says early CPR and defibrillation was the key to Ioan’s survival.He said: “When someone stops breathing, every second counts.“Chest compressions are absolutely key, but the fact that there was a defibrillator on scene on both occasions is the reason why Ioan has lived to tell the tale, I feel.”

Arwel, Gwion and Ioan Kennard, Dave Moodley, Rachael Kennard, and Bethan, Catherine and Benjamin Moodley. Credit: Family photo

Ioan was taken to Cardiff’s University Hospital of Wales, where he underwent a procedure to insert two stents in the arteries around his heart.After six weeks in hospital, five of which were spent in intensive care, he was finally discharged.The aspiring football coach will likely need more surgery in future but for now, his condition is monitored through an annual check-up at the hospital.

Rachael, a teacher at Coed Glas Primary School in Llanishen, said: “We’ve been friends with Dave for over 10 years but we didn’t ever think we would be on the receiving end of his expertise as a paramedic.“By sheer luck, Dave was in the right place at the right time and managed to be an integral part in Ioan's survival.“Without him, our son would not be alive.”Last month, Dave – who lives three doors down from the Kennard’s – was presented with a People’s Choice Award at the Welsh Ambulance Service’s staff awards ceremony, where Rachael had this emotional video message for him.

Jason Killens, Chief Executive at Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “Ioan’s survival is testament to Dave’s clinical expertise and professionalism and like Ioan’s family, we’re very proud of Dave for how he handled both situations.“Ioan is a remarkable young man and we wish him all the very best for the future.”Click here to find out where your community’s nearest defibrillator is.