Regular customer Tom Tweddle paid an emotional visit to Asda's store in Boldon recently to thank colleagues Helen Richardson and Linda Herd, who saved his life by giving him CPR for 45 minutes after he had stopped breathing.
Tweddle, 65, has since made a good recovery from the benign brain tumour that caused him to collapse and wanted to come in to see them as soon as he was well enough.
"I wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t for Helen and Linda – I really owe my life to them," Tweddle said. "If I had been somewhere else other than Asda that day I might not be here now. I just wanted to personally thank Helen and Linda. Their quick thinking saved me. It's a credit to the store and to Asda that they have staff who were able to do what they did."
Tweddle was in the store's car park when he suddenly went numb on one side of his body. Knowing something was seriously wrong, he asked a fellow shopper to call 999 and run into the store – where his wife Sue, who is a nurse, was shopping – to get help.
Security section leader Richardson, who has 30 years' experience as a first aider, ran outside and, with the help of front-end colleague Herd, took Tweddle to the first aid room, where his condition began to worsen.
“All of a sudden he gasped and then the colour began to drain from his face and it went really a horrible grey colour and he stopped breathing," Herd said. "That's when I started to do mouth-to-mouth and CPR. I was on autopilot.
"Suddenly after about 45 minutes he just started breathing again. I couldn't believe it. I really thought we'd lost him, but I wasn't going to give up.
"I was absolutely shattered afterwards and my arms ached but, after Tom was taken to hospital by ambulance by the the paramedics, I went back to work."
Richardson praised Herd for staying calm and keeping in contact with the ambulance service while relaying information to Tweddle's family.
Tweddle, who has had surgery on the tumour, remembers nothing of his ordeal. He said: "All I can remember is waking up in hospital with my family around me."
Richardson, who has worked at the store for 19 years, said seeing Tom in the store again "was the best feeling".
"To see a guy who you thought wouldn't survive standing in front of you after working on him for so long is simply amazing. It's probably the best thing to have happened to me apart from my daughter being born."
Herd added: "It was just amazing seeing him back in the store. It was just brilliant. Both me and Helen had a cry."
Kim Davison, the store's deputy manager, said: "Everyone here is so very proud of the girls. They were absolutely fantastic. Tom really does own them his life. To do CPR for 45 minutes is remarkable."