ACT News

Kambah woman performs CPR to save partner suffering a heart attack

Moments after Robert Brice's heart stopped and he tumbled from a horse's back, he heard his partner's voice repeat over and over: "Don't give up now, keep fighting."

Judi Lopez and Mr Brice were riding their horses, Precision and Charlie, close to their Kambah home when he went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing on December 26 last year.

Robert Brice and his partner Judi Lopez, with horses Charlie and Precision, at Kambah.
Robert Brice and his partner Judi Lopez, with horses Charlie and Precision, at Kambah. Photo: Jay Cronan

Ms Lopez had turned away for a moment and when she looked back she noticed Mr Brice had slumped over in his saddle. 

"The next minute he was hanging half-off, so I cantered over and by the time I arrived he had dropped on the ground."

She jumped off her horse and tried to rouse him, but he did not respond.

Ms Lopez phoned triple-0 and the woman on the end of the line told her to start cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.


"All I remember is throwing the phone and starting the compressions. There was no response and I started thinking I'd left it all too late. 

"I started talking to him and telling him to fight and to hang in there and there was help on the way.

"There was a breath then, and that was how I knew he was still alive.

"But there was still no response, his lips were blue and his eyes ... there was still nothing. I knew it was still really bad so I was relieved when the ambulance got there."

Paramedics arrived two minutes later and treated Mr Brice at the scene before they took him to hospital. His next memory was of waking up there before he was discharged   several days later.

Ms Lopez had kept her first aid training up-to-date through her work and the pair has urged people  to learn CPR. 

"I'm just so glad I knew what to do ... it's just one of those things I think everybody should know what to do," she said.

Mr Brice said many people didn't take first aid seriously, but his partner's knowledge and composure had saved his life.

"Had I not been with Judi and her calm way of dealing with it, I wouldn't be here.

Intensive care paramedic John Killeen, who was the first to treat Mr Brice, said early chest compressions could make "an enormous difference" to a patient's chance of survival. 

Mr Brice will have heart valve replacement surgery next week and plans to spend more time with his family.

"I've got a second chance, thanks to [paramedics] and Judi knowing CPR."

ACT Emergency Services Minister Joy Burch encouraged Canberrans to keep their knowledge of first aid practises up to date.

"I also encourage workplaces, shopping centres and other venues to have a defibrillator installed that will assist in performing any pre-hospital treatment prior to ambulance arrival at the scene."