A CYCLIST whose partner's heart stopped beating for half an hour after he collapsed on a bike ride has urged others to learn first aid.

Jenny Gower, inspired by Terry Penn's near-death experience, has recommended fellow cyclists to take a new specialised course launched in Oxfordshire last month.

The Wantage Cycling Club members took the course themselves, and are now encouraging others to sign up.

Ms Gower, 49, a business analyst said: "Terry's one of the fittest in the group and if that could happen to him it could happen to any of us."

The couple, who live in Eastbury just south of Wantage, were on a bike ride in nearby Lambourn in May when 64-year-old Mr Penn, a retired gardener, got into trouble.

Ms Gower recalled: "While climbing a hill out of Lambourn Terry started to feel a bit out-of-sorts.

"We cycled a little further but Terry was getting worse, so we stopped in someone's driveway and I got Terry to sit down."

Mr Penn was only complaining of a 'bit of tightness', but seconds later he fell unconscious and Ms Gower was dialling 999: he was having a heart attack.

As she made the call Ms Gower realised her partner had stopped breathing so she frantically started giving him CPR which she had learned years before.

Having gone into cardiac arrest at about 5pm, by 6.30pm Mr Penn was in the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

Doctors estimated his heart had stopped beating for 30 minutes, and told Ms Gower there was only a 50 per cent chance he would survive without brain damage.

For the next week he remained in a coma. The critical care team took him off sedation for varying lengths of time, but the signs were not good.

Ms Gower said: "It was really tough: the critical care staff were faultless and kept me in the loop with their thoughts, but essentially they didn't know for sure what the outcome would be."

On the Saturday a week after his heart attack, doctors withheld sedation for a sustained period.

At first, Mr Penn was still not showing any signs of recovery. Then, on the Sunday morning, Ms Gower started talking to him and Mr Penn asked her a question.

She recalled: "What elation! He was showing a full understanding of what I was saying and the ability to process it and respond with a question: I felt absolutely fantastic."

From then onwards Mr Penn improved rapidly and, incredibly, returned to work just two months later.

Ms Gower said: "Having the skills and confidence to do CPR in this horrible situation has meant that we now have a second chance at life together.

"I cannot stress how important it is for everyone to have basic emergency first aid: having training enables you to give a loved one the best possible chance."

The couple topped up their own first aid skills on a new cyclists course launched by First Aid for Safety Oxfordshire.

Find out more at firstforsafetyoxfordshire.co.uk