THE family of a cyclist who suffered a mysterious cardiac arrest have thanked hospital staff and police for their support after switching off his life-support machine.

Gary Woodward, who is a life-long member of the Chippenham Wheelers cycling group, was found unconscious and not breathing at the side of Blacklands Road, in Flaxlands, near Royal Wootton Bassett, on June 20.

A paramedic in a rapid-response vehicle, a road ambulance and the Wiltshire Air Ambulance attended the scene, together with four police cars, and after paramedics succeeded in restarting his heart, Gary was rushed to the Bristol Royal Infirmary to receive treatment.

But the time he was not breathing left Gary severely brain damaged and on Saturday – his 68th birthday – doctors took the decision to switch off his life-support machine but he is continuing to breathe.

Jackie, Gary’s ex-wife and mother of his 47-year-old only son, Duane, said the events had left the family shocked and devastated.

She said: “I’m just so shocked. Duane is absolutely devastated. We can’t really believe what’s happened.”

Doctors have been left unable to explain what could have happened to trigger his cardiac arrest.

“He opens his eyes but there’s nothing behind them,” Jackie said.

“His breathing and his heart is so good and so strong and he is so healthy that the doctors are absolutely dumbfounded. They got it started and they haven’t stopped since. But he’s brain damaged. He has some level of brain activity but he will never be the same again.

“It was a cardiac arrest, not a heart attack, but all cardiac arrests have a trigger and they have no idea what caused it.”

On Saturday, after more than a week without signs of consciousness from Gary, doctors took the decision to remove him from the ventilator. 

Jackie said: “When doctors took us in and told Duane that they were considering taking him off the life-support machine Duane got quite upset. He was saying how he would have to make the decision but the doctors said no, they were making the decision – he didn’t have to take the responsibility for it, which was so kind of them.

“All the hospital staff have been so good to Gary, and to us as well, and really taken care of us.

“They even found us a room with a bathroom in the British Heart Institute so we could stay with him overnight.”

Jackie and Duane also wanted to thank the police for their support, and to find the driver of the SEB van who called the emergency services to Gary’s aid.

Jackie said: “There was an SEB van who spotted him sitting on the side of the road, who asked him how he was.

“He said he didin’t feel very well but would just sit down for a minute.

“When the driver came back from dropping off his mate he found Gary unconscious and not breathing, and it was he who called the ambulance.

“The police were so good as well. They looked after his bike for us and I know they are just doing their job, but we so appreciated their support.”