Published: 17:54, 11 June 2021
| Updated: 10:57, 15 June 2021
A kayaker whose heart stopped for more than four hours after an accident on the River Medway has shared the miraculous story of his recovery as he continues to piece together memories from the traumatic ordeal.
On April 13, Paul Curtis from Gillingham took to the river near Maidstone Canoe Club as he did most mornings for routine training before work.
The 50-year-old, who had been kayaking for seven years, planned to paddle up to Farleigh Lock before coming back to the club, but just as he was turning around he fell into the freezing cold water.
Mr Curtis explained: "I was a bit chilly but I didn't feel that bad at the time so I got back into the boat and I paddled the two and a half miles back down to the club.
"Presumably as I was doing so my body was getting colder which began to affect my balance.
"About 500-metres from the canoe club I fell in again but I have no memory of it or what happened after that."
Bryn Price, a friend he had been travelling with, realised something was wrong after just a few minutes as Mr Curtis, who was not far behind him, didn't return to the club.
He paddled back out to find Mr Curtis in difficulty and managed to bring him back to safety.
Dave Latter, who was passing by after his morning exercise stopped to help when he noticed the men in distress.
He helped to carry Mr Curtis into the club changing rooms to warm him up before calling 999.
But the situation then escalated when Mr Curtis' heart stopped beating.
Mr Price performed CPR until paramedics arrived and Mr Curtis was rushed into an air ambulance, which landed in Whatman Park.
He was flown to Kings College Hospital in London.
His body temperature dropped from 37 degrees to just 24. He was put into intensive care and it wasn't until four hours later his heart restarted.
He was in a coma for four days and his family was told the odds of him waking up were incredibly slim, and if he did, there was no way of knowing what state he would be in.
Now just two months after the accident Mr Curtis has made almost a full recovery, something doctors told him they could never have predicted.
Mr Curtis added: "Everyone involved in my care was world class. I have always been a supporter of the NHS but this really has opened my eyes to how amazing it is.
"I’m not as quick as I used to be but it's nice to be running again and it looks like I'm very much heading for a full recovery which considering what happened is a bit of a miracle.
"Apparently my level of fitness really helped too.
"I feel my progress has been slow but speaking to people who know more about this than me, it has been really good and I'm very lucky."
"I’m back to gym workouts and if I chose to, I may be able to get back in a kayak again but I haven't made the decision if I want to yet.
"I do miss it but I never ever want to put my family and friends through that again. It was even more traumatic for them than it was for me."
Having been through the terrifying ordeal, Mr Curtis hopes to encourage more people to get trained in CPR so everyone has the skills which saved his life.
He said: "Even for people with reasonable experience paddling like me there is something to be said for making sure people know where you are and taking some company.
"But an important message would be get yourself CPR trained because had it not been for Bryn, the outcome for me would have been so different.
"If enough people know that stuff, anyone in a similar situation may stand a better chance of survival."
The incident even prompted Mr Latter who helped save Mr Curtis to sign up for a first aid course.
The 49-year-old said: "I was just in the right place at the right time and I’m glad I could help him.
"I was thinking, could I have made that phone call earlier? Could I have done anything different? So when I found out Paul was doing okay I was so relieved."