Heart attack victim says he owes ‘huge debt’ to Swanage man

A regular visitor to Swanage who narrowly escaped death, has returned to Ulwell Holiday Park to thank local resident Kevin Dimarco who saved his life using a defib and CPR.

Kevin, whose job is to manage the swimming pool and the maintenance of the park in Swanage, was by the swimming pool on bank holiday Monday on 28th August 2023 when he got a call from reception saying that one of the caravan owners was having a suspected heart attack.

Kevin Dimarco at Ulwell Holiday Park

Kev Dimarco at Ulwell Holiday Park where he works

Qualified swimming instructor and lifeguard

Formerly a member of the Swanage Lifeboat crew for 12 years, and a qualified swimming instructor and lifeguard, Kevin is fully trained in CPR and the use of a defib.

CPR is the basic first aid procedure that can be used to keep someone alive by doing chest compressions to pump blood around the body and rescue breaths to provide oxygen. A defib is a device that gives a high energy electric shock to the heart of someone who is in cardiac arrest.

Fortunately Kevin was able to revive caravan owner Keith Lawrence and keep him breathing until the First Responders and ambulance crews arrived.

Ulwell Holiday Park

Keith was reunited with Kevin when he returned to the Dorset holiday park where he has owned a caravan since 2010

Reunion at Ulwell Holiday Park

Keith came out of hospital on the 5th October 2023 and recovered enough to recently return to Ulwell Holiday Park, along with his wife Kath, to meet up with Kevin again, this time under much happier circumstances.

Having reunited, Keith recounted what he remembered of the fateful day:

“We’ve been coming to Ulwell Holiday Park since 2010, rain or shine and decided to spend the holiday weekend just lazing about having a restful time. I’m 6 feet 6 inches, 17 stone and manage two allotments.

“We eat our fresh fruit and veggies that we grow and thought I was quite fit and healthy but things changed on the August Bank Holiday Monday.”

Kevin Dimarco and Keith Parkinson
Kevin Dimarco

Kev Dimarco (left) meets up again with Keith Lawrence (right) at his caravan under happier circumstances

“His face went a deathly white”

Keith’s wife Kath added:

“The day started off as normal, we had breakfast and then went outside just to sit and read on the patio. After a half hour or so suddenly Keith collapsed in his chair making horrible grunting noises – he wouldn’t respond to anything – I tried to phone for help but couldn’t because I was shaking so much I couldn’t press any buttons.

“His face went a deathly white and I couldn’t get him off the chair. I shouted for help and luckily our neighbours Chris and Keith heard. Keith went for help and I think someone phoned 999. Next thing I heard was Kevin saying that we have to get him on the floor.

“We are so grateful that Kevin was there that day. He used the defib and did CPR, really putting every ounce of his energy to get a heartbeat. He finally did, much to everyone’s relief. The First Responders had arrived by then and were able to help with putting a tube in Keith’s throat to help him breathe.

“Not one but two ambulances arrived and they were able to get him in ambulance number one and me in number two, and we were then rushed, originally to Bournemouth Hospital, but because Keith was so poorly, they diverted to Poole Hospital and the accident and emergency unit.

“Which begs the question of why is this unit eventually being closed and all the care being transferred to Bournemouth? If this unit had not been open on that day, then the only alternative would have been Bournemouth, further away and we might not have made it. Surely this isn’t an isolated case?

“It seemed like hours before we were able to see him, by that time our family had arrived, he was put into an induced sleep for two weeks. During the first week, the doctors did warn us that he might not make the weekend and they were amazed to see his progress when he arrived on the ward on the Monday.

“He had family visits every day, and we can’t thank the doctors and nursing staff enough for their support and care to help him through all of this. He was eventually transferred to Bournemouth Hospital critical care unit.”

Poole Hospital sign

Keith was being taken by ambulance to Royal Bournemouth Hospital but was diverted enroute to Poole Hospital as he rapidly deteriorated

Heart defib nicknamed ‘Kev’

Keith continued the story:

“When I arrived at the critical care unit I wasn’t a very good patient, constantly pulling out my feeding tube, trying to get out of bed and wanting to go home not really knowing where I would go if I succeeded. I couldn’t walk, which panicked me and I feared the worst.

“I had two nurses assigned to me and they pulled me through with their dedication, care and humour. The young physios got me back on my feet, quizzing me about different things like what day it was, where I was, who was the prime minister and also making me feel better about things.

“I left the unit to go to ward 23. This is where I had stents put in on 29th September and a heart defibrillator fitted on 4th October, which we have nicknamed ‘Kev’.

“The doctors and nursing staff were as brilliant as all the others. I owe a great debt to Kevin Dimarco for saving my life. Grateful thanks also to our neighbours Chris and Keith as well as the ambulance service and medical staff of both hospitals at Poole and Bournemouth.”

Kevin Dimarco and Rich Lloyd with certificate
Kevin Dimarco

Kev was presented with his Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) certificate by Rich Lloyd who is a RLSS national trainer assessor and delivers monthly training sessions for the lifeguards at Ulwell Holiday Park

Recognition from Royal Life Saving Society

To recognise Kevin’s swift response and skill, he’s now been awarded a Certificate of Meritorious Action for Lifeguards from the Royal Life Saving Society.

Kevin said:

“It was good to meet up again with Keith and his family, including his daughter and granddaughter and a relief to see him recovering so well. It was a bit emotional but a good experience. I’m pleased there was such a positive outcome to the incident.

“If anyone has the chance to do a first aid course or gets offered a defib familiarisation session, I’d really urge them to do it. You never know when you could be the person to help another.”


Official recognition

Further information

  • To organise a familiarisation session, the Swanage Community Defibrillator Partnership can be contacted via email info@swanagedefib.co.uk or its Facebook page
  • In an emergency, ring 999 and the operator will tell you where the nearest defib is located and how to access it

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