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Mark Darnell considers himself a doubly lucky man.

Mark Darnell was hit with a sudden cardiac arrest in May. He woke in a hospital in the Intensive Care unit to discover he had beaten the odds again.

Mark Darnell considers himself a doubly lucky man. He successfully fought Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and was given the all-clear just before Christmas. Then he was hit with a sudden cardiac arrest in May. He was “gone for 17 hours”, to use his term, but awoke in Intensive Care to discover he’d beaten the odds again. “Everyone thought I was a goner when I had cancer,” the 59-year-old told ZAP STAND when recovering at his brother Scott’s place in the beachside Sydney suburb of Maroubra. “So it was a bit of a shock that I had a cardiac arrest 12 months later. But I’ve been fortunate.”


Mark is the eldest of five brothers, and on a fateful day, he was traveling to Sydney from the house of his Newcastle-based brother, Brad, for a careful follow-up with his radiologist. As the train approached Central Station, a man started yelling at him. “I just happened to be in the firing line; it could have been anyone. I thought maybe he was an ice addict. I closed the [connecting] door, and he went ballistic, kicking it and saying he was going to kill me and all that stuff. “I was trying to tell people to hit the security button; then the train stopped at Central. I jumped off. As soon as I did, I went to the security guard on the platform…” That’s where Mark’s memory of the day ends. At least some things were going his way, though, because he had collapsed at the city end of the platform and Jeff Marsh, Sydney Trains’ Occupational First Aider, was just one minute away.


Even before Jeff arrived, a quick-acting commuter had commenced CPR. “They asked me if they should stop the CPR,” Jeff explained, “and I said no. I started with oxygen while they were doing CPR. Someone brought me the defibrillator, and I applied the pads. While the machine was analyzing, I had a quick feel for a pulse and, and there was nothing there. “We let the shock go, another cycle of CPR and it shocked the second time. Then another cycle of CPR and then the ambos showed up, and they took over clinical care.” The early CPR and the defibrillation had been critical to Mark’s survival, and the ambulance officers managed to stabilize his condition. That was about 3 pm, and Mark wouldn’t wake up until the next morning at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. “I was gone for about 17 hours,” he said. “It was a complete blank from the time I collapsed to the time I woke up,” Mark said he wasn’t aware of any heart problems before then, though the doctors said the stress of his encounter on the train could have contributed. Of the machine that saved his life, Mark said he had previously heard about heart defibrillators being placed at train stations and thought that was a great idea. “But didn’t think I’d use one.” Jeff, the man who helped save Mark, is also a fan, not least because the long-time Sydney Trains employee has been involved in three life-saving rescues using them in the past three months. “Having them on hand is just great. I don’t know how better to put that. “It is very comforting to know there is that piece of equipment there. It’s pretty well the first thing we use now for the unconscious, unresponsive customers, or patients.”


Anyone can use the ZapStand Defibrillator System. It will issue audible instructions to “talk through” even a completely inexperienced rescuer. NB: A Heartsafe Zone starts with a defibrillator system – not just a defibrillator. In other words, the defibrillator is monitored 24 hours a day for presence and functionality. Ongoing services ensure that, when cardiac arrest strikes, people are “aware of” and “confident to use” the defib and have the peace of mind that can only be provided with around-the-clock.

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