Un-bell-ievable Luck For Church Bellringer


Two time cardiac arrest survivor Professor Alan Coates

It was the quick thinking actions and First Aid knowledge of bystanders that have saved a life a church bellringer, for his second time. Last Thursday, St Mary’s Cathedral bellringer, Alan Coates, was only able to toll the bell once before he himself was struck down, collapsing to the ground in cardiac arrest.

“I am told that after ringing once, I set my bell, collapsed on my knees and then slumped awkwardly to the floor,” he told AFR.

Thankfully for Alan, a number of his fellow bellringers were there at the time and rushed in to provide some life-saving First Aid. St Mary’s Cathedral tower captain Murray-Luke Peard and volunteer Mark Ferguson, who had fortunately been trained in CPR, took turns in delivering chest compressions. Meanwhile Alan’s wife, helped deliver rescue breathes. Another colleague rung for an ambulance.

The team of bellringer bystanders worked in perfect “harmony” providing CPR to Alan for over 20 minutes until ambulance crews arrived at the scene, just in “chime”. Paramedics had to run up the 120 stairs to the Bell Tower to reach Alan. It was there, after two shocks of a defibrillator, that Alan began to respond.


Alan Coates lowered through the cathedral roof. Photo courtesy of Top Notch Video

The only problem then, was how to get Alan down from the tower. Emergency crews were forced to open a trap door and perform a delicate operation of abseiling Alan down through the roof of the almost 200 year old cathedral. Alan was taken to St Vincent’s hospital and, while suffering from broken ribs and lung complications, is said to be recovering from the ordeal.

This latest experience has brought Alan’s tally of surviving cardiac arrests now to two. In 2001, Alan also beat the odds to survive a cardiac arrest that he suffered whilst preparing for, non other than, a medical graduation at The University of Sydney. There, it was fellow medical colleagues that delivered CPR that saved Alan’s life.

Paramedics and rescue workers have since praised the life-saving efforts of the bellringer bystanders. Had it not been for the their quick-thinking actions and the First Aid and CPR they provided, Alan may not around to ring another cathedral bell today.

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