Staff, shoppers help resuscitate man after heart attack at Target Shellharbour

Team effort: Stockland Shellharbour security officer - Les (front) with Target store manager Phil Henderson and staff member Kristie Lamond, Stockland security Paul Dumbuya, David Small and Mohamad Matar and Target's Kylie Hardy. Picture: Sylvia Liber

Team effort: Stockland Shellharbour security officer - Les (front) with Target store manager Phil Henderson and staff member Kristie Lamond, Stockland security Paul Dumbuya, David Small and Mohamad Matar and Target's Kylie Hardy. Picture: Sylvia Liber

A Sydney woman has credited the prompt action of staff and shoppers at a Shellharbour shopping centre for saving her brother’s life. 

Samm Hughes-Murphy said her brother Toby Hughes is recovering in Wollongong Hospital after suffering a heart attack while standing in the check-out queue at Target at Stockland Shellharbour last Friday.

Customers and staff rushed to his aid, administering first aid, while a store manager took Mr Hughes five-year-old son Pheonix to pick out a toy to distract him from the distressing scene.

The store quickly raised the alarm, sending centre management security officers rushing in with a defibrillator to kickstart the 40-year-old man’s heart. 

Paramedics arrived within 15 minutes, transporting Mr Hughes – who has no known health conditions – to hospital.

Ms Hughes-Murphy said had it not been for the combined actions of staff and shoppers, her younger brother would likely not have survived.

‘’It was around midday when he suffered a heart attack while standing in line, he lost consciousness instantly,’’ she said.

‘’There aren’t enough words to express the gratitude I have for all the people who stepped in and helped – from people standing next to him in the queue, to Target staff, to the shopping centre’s security staff.

‘’These people are the reason that Toby is still here. This only highlights the importance of knowing first aid, of having the correct equipment on hand and acting quickly.’’

Ms Hughes-Murphy took to social media this week to pay thanks for those involved, and she said the response was overwhelming.

‘’A lot of people contacted me via Facebook who were at the shop that day,’’ she said.

‘’I understand an off-duty nurse initially helped him, while an off-duty police officer was also assisting. 

‘’My brother’s last memory was standing in line, he can’t remember what happened afterwards, but I’m sure when he’s fully recovered he will want to give his thanks personally.’’

Target Shellharbour store manager Phil Henderson said it was a great team effort.

‘’Thankfully staff were well trained to deal with an emergency, and the centre had the equipment needed to assist the gentleman,’’ he said. ‘’I’d also like to praise the actions of our customers who didn’t hesitate to help.’’ 

Stockland Shellharbour centre manager Pamela Simpson said staff have annual first aid and defibrillator training by St John’s Ambulance.

Defibrillators were installed in all Stockland centres three years ago.There are four defibrillators within the Shellharbour centre.

“We are extremely proud of our security guards and their quick response to this emergency incident.’’

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Paramedic Mark McCarthy has long campaigned to make lifesaving defibrillators widely available.

His company Wollongong First Aid has installed automated external defibrillators at shopping centres, sporting grounds, schools and even street corners.

Now he wants to make sure that people feel confident to use them.

‘’They are now available in many places but most people don’t know where they are,’’ Mr McCarthy said.

‘’Many would also be reluctant to use them, so there needs to be more education around them.’’

He said the machines were simple to use, offering easy instructions and voice prompts for people to assist someone suffering cardiac arrest. 

‘’Any attempt at first aid is better than no attempt, and this device will not deliver a shock unless the person is in a shockable rhythm."

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