As the Thornlie resident and his wife, Angela Rowney, left the supermarket checkout that day, Mr Rowney said he felt lightheaded.
‘His whole body started shaking,’ Ms Rowney said.
‘He flopped down, went rigid and his head fell backwards. His face was purple, his arm was white and he stopped breathing.’
Another shopper, a young man they later found out was a fly-in, fly-out worker trained in first aid, rushed over and began CPR.
Ms Rowney said a nurse who happened to have been at the nearby hairdresser, appeared ‘as if from nowhere’ and took over mouth-to-mouth resuscitation while the young man continued chest compressions.
As Ms Rowney froze in shock, supermarket staff took charge, called an ambulance and did crowd control, asking onlookers to make way for paramedics.
One staff member kept an arm around Mrs Rowney, while another soothed her repeated pleas of ‘Don’t die, don’t die,’ with ‘It will be OK, it will be OK.’
Paramedics worked on her husband for what ‘seemed a long time’ before they all left for Royal Perth Hospital in the ambulance, where Mr Rowney arrested again and had to be resuscitated with defibrillators and adrenaline shots.
He remained in an induced coma in Royal Perth’s intensive care unit for several days before eventually being sent home, with cracked ribs and a long road to recovery ahead, but very much alive.
‘I’ve still got a lot of fish to catch,’ he said.
Doctors told the couple that without doubt, those first responders at the centre had saved Mr Rowney’s life.
The couple wished to say ‘a huge thank you’ to everyone who had been there at the centre, family and friends, Royal Perth staff, the Red Cross and the many other organisations helping to restore Mr Rowney’s health.
– To find out more about heart health visit www.heartfoundation.org.au