Published on: 8 September 2023

A dad who had a heart attack during last year’s Great North Run is set to complete this year’s event thanks to cardiology teams who saved his life and got him back to fitness.

Daniel Johnson has been coached through his recovery by South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Team. 

The 42-year-old, who lives in Hebburn and is originally from Newcastle, was on the Felling Bypass during the half marathon when he started to feel unwell.

Despite battling on, he came to a stop and sat on the grass verge. It was thanks to two mystery good Samaritans also in the run that he received the urgent help he needed.

They got him to the St John Ambulance help point near Lingley Lane, where its team helped blue light him to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead. There, the team confirmed he was having a heart attack and stabilised him.

He was transferred to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, where cardiology specialists used angioplasty under local anaesthetic to access his arteries through his wrist.

Daniel Johnson pictured after he was admitted to hospital..jpeg

Daniel Johnson pictured after he was admitted to hospital.

As they removed a 1 inch blood clot which caused his heart attack, Daniel experienced a dangerous heart rhythm.

A defibrillator was used to restore his normal pulse. The specialists also cleared plaque from his arteries and put in a stent to help keep a section open – he has since had another fitted.

Now after almost a year of rehabilitation through STSFT’s award-winning cardiac rehabilitation team, Daniel is preparing to run in Sunday’s event.

His heart attack was due to coronary artery disease and he has family links to the condition, as his mam Doreen had a heart attack aged 46. She is now doing well. 

Before last year’s run - his second - he had trained and lived a healthy lifestyle, but has since made changes to improve it further.

Daniel Johnson and his wife Caroline as they prepared to take part in the GNR..JPG

Daniel Johnson and his wife Caroline.

During his tailored rehab sessions at Hebburn Central, he has been taught how to regain his fitness and keep well.

Daniel, who is married to Caroline, 39, and is dad to Ivy, five, works for the railway. He goes to the gym at the South Tyneside Council community building where he had his rehab care.

He said:

"The help I’ve been given has been constant ever since my heart attack. When I came out of the Freeman it was great, they contacted me straight away and it was a help to be able to talk to someone.

"I was put in touch with Simone Rowlands, who is in charge of the cardiac team, and from my first appointment, it was nice to have everything explained to me clearly, not in very medical terms.

"I was started on a six-month cardiac rebab course. They tell you about what food to eat, how to get your heart to be strong again and how to build it up slowly using low intensity exercise like walking. 

"There’s no pushing, it’s more about scaling up and doing it at your own pace to suit you, but it’s also about having someone to talk to and taking the advice of the cardiac nurses.

"Other people who have heard I’ve had a heart attack have said ‘How can you do that now?’ but I never backed that idea from the start. I’ve concentrated on coming back from it and people seem to think I’m mad for doing it and say I should take it easy, but I want to live well.

"I’ve had great care in the last year and I can never portray how thankful I feel to everyone for what they have done for me to help me recover.

"It’s a running joke that my time for this year’s Great North Run will be 364 days, two hours and 25 minutes, but I’m looking forward to getting over the finishing line this time."

Simone, the Trust’s Project Lead for Cardiac Rehabilitation in South Tyneside, said:

"We’re all wishing Daniel a brilliant Great North Run.

"It’s a real team effort and Daniel’s recovery shows how well someone can be with our help. I hope it highlights to others this service and the excellent work the team does."

Dr Mickey Jachuck is a Consultant Cardiologist and Physician as well as the Trust’s Clinical Director for Cardiothoracic Medicine.

He will be running the Great North Run again this weekend, having helped start it in 2021 as one of four North East NHS heroes in the wake of the pandemic.

He said:

"It is great to hear Daniel’s story and how well he is doing.

"I’m exceptionally proud of our team and what they do to help people when they are diagnosed with heart conditions.

"Daniel is a shining example of what can be achieved when we work together, as well as our regional expertise in helping save the lives of cardiac patients.
"I look forward to him crossing that finishing line."

The Trust’s Cardiac Rehab Service was launched in autumn 2021 and offers patients a choice at where and how they receive their support.

It can be face-to-face, home based through an app or both, with local community sports used as the base for the in-person sessions.