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Cardiac arrest survivor thanks Team LAS “humble heroes” for saving his life

A 54-year-old man whose heart stopped beating for 21 minutes has thanked the London Ambulance Service staff who helped save his life.

Nicolas and Alaia (front) with medics (from left) John, Vijay, Junaid and Kirsty stood in front of an ambulance
Nicolas, Alaia with medics (L) John, Vijay, Junaid, Kirsty

Nicolas De Santis, a tech entrepreneur, was working at home in his study when he started to feel slight discomfort in his chest which he brushed off as an infection or bad cold.

Fortunately for Nicolas his daughter, Alaia, 22, was also at home that day in December 2019, and had gone to check on him before they went out to dinner, when he collapsed in front of her.

She immediately dialled 999 and followed the advice from London Ambulance Service call handler, Elliott, who began to talk Alaia through cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

She said: “When I saw my dad collapse, I knew something severe had happened to him. I had never learnt CPR before, but, I knew I had to act quickly as he was not breathing. The call handler kept me calm and helped talk me through what to do.”

As Alaia continued to give chest compressions to her father, medics Kirsty, Junaid, John and Vijay arrived.

Junaid, an Advanced Paramedic Practitioner in Critical Care, recalled that day: “21 minutes is a very long time for someone’s heart to stop beating. Every second counts when a person is in cardiac arrest and good chest compressions – like those Alaia gave – helps to resupply the heart and brain with vital oxygen.

“Alaia’s quick actions that day truly saved her father’s life.”


After the medics helped to stabilise Nicolas, they rushed him to hospital where he was put in an induced coma. He spent a month recovering in an intensive care unit. The doctors said he had suffered a cardiac arrest because of a blocked coronary artery.

Nicolas, who lives in Mayfair with his wife, Melissa Odabash, and his two daughters, Alaia and Avalon, 18, says the incident has made him see the world a little differently.

“I left this life for 21 minutes. I realise how lucky I am to be alive, and life really is much more beautiful than it was before. The way I see it I came back to understand how precious life really is,” he said.

Recently Nicolas visited our Service’s HQ to meet the staff there that helped to save his life that day.

He said: “It has been so important for me to be able to thank them. Without them I’m not sure I would have survived. I call them my ‘humble heroes’, because they really are heroes and so humble.”

Since recovering Nicolas wants to raise awareness of the importance of cardiac health and learning lifesaving skills such as CPR.

He said: “I’m a 54-year-old man, fairly fit, play football every weekend and look after myself with a healthy diet. I never thought anything like this could happen to me. It is totally unpredictable.

Nicolas and Alaia

“And that’s the point, you never know who it could happen to or when, so that’s why it’s so important to learn these skills. As sadly, you’re much more likely to have to save someone close to you – a friend or family member.”

Not only has Nicolas thanked the ambulance service for saving his life, he says he is indebted to his daughter: “I have said to her, whatever she wants, she can have!

“I can’t thank everyone enough for giving me another chance at life and the opportunity to see my daughters grow up, get married and graduate. I am so grateful to everyone that day.”

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