Dad’s car collapse drives awareness mission

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Supervising your teenagers as they learn to drive can be an edge-of-your-seat experience for any parent, but for one Melbourne dad it was literally life-changing.

Scott Montgomery’s heart stopped during his daughter’s driving lesson – and now he’s on a mission to raise awareness of the importance of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillators (AEDs), and how rehabilitation is vital for recovery after cardiac arrest.

Scott was in the back seat of the family’s car, with his 19-year-old daughter Penny, while his wife Row was supervising their 16-year-old learner driver, Kate, in the front.

The family was returning from a two-week holiday in Port Fairy when Scott collapsed.

“I remember packing up that morning and feeling very relaxed as we headed home,” he said.

“I apparently received a text and then called out as I slumped in the back seat.”

Row, a nurse, ordered Kate to pull over so she could check on Scott.

He was in cardiac arrest, so Row pulled him out of the car and began CPR, assisted by their daughters.

Off-duty paramedic Britt Sinclair and her partner Verity Watt, who is also a nurse, were driving past and saw the commotion.

“Verity and I were coming back from Port Fairy, and noticed a car pulled over to the side of the road and I thought someone was being sick,” Britt said.

“As we got closer, we realised they were doing CPR and we pulled over. 

“I told Row I was a paramedic, and I took over doing CPR while Verity called triple zero. A former paramedic arrived soon after to help.”

Britt also asked bystanders to go to a nearby car yard that had an AED – the shock from the device brought Scott’s heart back into a normal rhythm.

“They zapped me back after 11 minutes,” he said.

Scott was flown by air ambulance to Geelong and was discharged two weeks later, returning to Melbourne.

However, complications set in and Scott spent a week undergoing further treatment at Epworth Richmond.

He has just finished a six-week cardiac rehabilitation program at Epworth Camberwell.

The program provides physical, emotional, and social support to help people understand their heart health and empower them to live healthy, active and fulfilling lives.

Epworth Rehabilitation's cardiac program coordinator Jo Kevill said the treatment provided a safe space for someone who has had a heart attack to “process what’s happened and their experiences”. 

“While it can be confronting, Scott’s strength and courage to talk about it so openly helped him and others in the group to move through the emotional journey that comes with a cardiac event and diagnosis of heart disease,” she said.

“Cardiac rehab is not just a gym program. Together with the information, resources and guidance provided, Scott built confidence to move forward and live an active and fulfilling life.”

Scott said the rehabilitation program had been vital in helping him get back to normal life with a positive attitude.

“Mentally and physically, it has been a challenge and the rehabilitation has helped with both,” he said.

Scott is using his experience to raise awareness about the importance of CPR and AEDs. 

“There was a push a couple of years ago to get AEDs into sports clubs as they clearly save lives,” he said.

Read more: The smart future of cardiac care

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