These three Mirror readers are extra thankful to be celebrating Christmas with their families this year – as they are only here to enjoy the festivities after the selfless contribution of loved ones
Christmas is the time to thank friends and family for everything they have done.
This festive season will feel extra poignant for three readers who are here to celebrate because a loved one saved their life
‘My boyfriend stopped me choking to death’
A cosy evening at home in Norwich turned into a night Vicky Proctor and her boyfriend Luke Devine will never forget.
“It was a January night and our flatmate made macaroni cheese,” says Vicky. “We were eating it in bed while watching TV because in lockdown standards slipped.
“Luke made me laugh by pretending to be a dog. I was laughing so hard some macaroni went down the wrong way, as if I’d inhaled it. I started choking, but Luke thought I was still laughing.
“I couldn’t speak to tell him I was in trouble. I was gulping for air and frantically gesturing to him that I needed help.”
Luke, a psychotherapist who is medically trained, knew exactly what to do. He said: “I tried gently tapping Vicky’s back, then smacking it hard. But she was making horrible gasping noises, her face was red and her lips turning purply-blue.
“I knew an ambulance couldn’t get there on time so if I didn’t try the Heimlich she might die.
“I was scared, but training kicked in and I stood behind Vicky, as if hugging her. I made a fist, placed it under her solar plexus, then thrusted upwards to force the air and food out.”
Copywriter Vicky, 33, coughed and the macaroni dislodged. Flooded with adrenaline, the relieved pair – who have been together for two-and-a-half years – had a beer to calm down.
“We were both shaking and staring at each other,” says Vicky. “Even 11 months on, we can barely believe it happened. It was a horrible experience but it has bonded us even closer.”
Sister’s stem cells helped me overcome leukaemia
Gareth Smith’s family were devastated by his leukaemia diagnosis in July 2020.
He says: “When they told me I had leukaemia, I was lost for words. The consultant told me if I’d started treatment any later, they’d have given me two weeks to live.
“I thought about my wife Lindsay and our two daughters Isabel, who’s now six, and Sienna who is three. I told my consultant the treatment failing wasn’t an option.”
Gareth, from Sheffield, was carrying 98% leukaemia cells so, even after chemotherapy and radiotherapy to kill the cancers and reboot his immune system, doctors said a blood stem cell transplant was his best chance of survival.
His sister Kerry, 39, had already stepped in to save him. She says: “In 2014 I saw a child on This Morning who needed a blood stem cell donor. I ordered a home swab kit from blood cancer charity DKMS but never in a thousand years thought it would be used to save my brother.”
Kerry, who lives in Saffron Walden, Essex, with her husband David and sons Rueben, nine, and sevenyear-old Dexter, donated her cells in a 30 minute painless process last November.
Gareth says: “The effect the stem cell transfer had on my health was enormous, yet the procedure was so simple. My blood stem cells are now 100% Kerry’s.”
On January 2 this year, Gareth entered the recovery stage. He says: “Thinking about what we’ve been through is very emotional. But when we’re together, we still act like a couple of wallies.”
My wife did a CPR course day before I had a cardiac arrest
On February 12, Dave Cleland’s wife Bernie completed a course with St John Ambulance to learn CPR. The following day she saved his life when she gave him the kiss of life for eight minutes.
Dave, from Woodbridge in Suffolk, says: “I’d had a snooze, gone to in our en-suite and it was lights out.
“Bernie was downstairs and heard a thwack. She legged it upstairs, called 999 and started CPR. Only 8% of people who have out of hospital cardiac arrests survive. I know I am lucky to be here thanks to Bernie’s quick thinking.”
A week earlier, fitness fan Dave, 54, had his first cardiac arrest after completing a virtual mountain cycle on a static bike. Bernie called a nurse when his feeling of indigestion did not ease.
Within hours he was rushed to hospital and had surgery to fit stents in a blocked artery.
Exactly one week later, Dave collapsed.
Bernie, 55, says: “I found Dave face down and training kicked in. The emergency call handler helped me count and I did not stop.
“It felt like an out of body experience.”
Dave, a BT engineer, was airlifted to Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire. He says: “I felt very emotional when nurses told me what Bernie did. Strictly speaking, I was lying there dead.”
Bernie, a primary school teacher who was hailed a CPR Hero by the British Heart Foundation in September, says she needs no extra gift from Dave this Christmas. “Just having him here, healthy and in good form, is all I need.
“As our son Luke says, it’s been one hell of a year.”