The CPR Superhero at Home

Eight-year-old Sonner is a fanatic Spider-Man fan, but he has invented a new superhero after his dad helped save his mum’s life – CPR Man. 

Last August, dad James Franklin, 45, had to perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) on mum Emma, 44, when she collapsed from a sudden cardiac arrest at their home in Southampton. 

Garage office manager Emma Franklin, whose mum died of a cardiac arrest in bed in her late forties, said she woke up that day feeling completely normal, but soon realised something was wrong. “I kept getting this pain between my shoulder blades, into my jaw and down my arm,” says Emma. “Out of nowhere, our middle daughter Lily was shouting that mum's having some sort of fit or seizure,” adds James.  

James ran into the living room but couldn’t get a response from Emma. He immediately dialled 999.  

James and his neighbour, who stayed by James’ side throughout, moved Emma off the sofa and on to the floor while a neighbour looked after Sonner. With the call handler in his ear James began CPR on his wife. “The only time I've been taught CPR is when I was a boy scout, and that was a long time ago,” says James. 

Around four minutes later, a Community First Responder arrived at the home and wired up the defibrillator to shock Emma. It was a success.  

“He grabbed me and said, ‘You just saved your wife’s life.’ I felt the full emotion run through my body. After what seemed like an age, but was probably only a few minutes, paramedics from South Central Ambulance Service arrived to assist.”
James Franklin, hero

“I was holding her hand all the way through, telling her ‘Don’t you dare die on me.’ I was in a right panic, to be honest. I just didn’t know what was going to happen,” says James.  

Shortly after, Dr Louisa Chan, HEMS Paramedics Jason Butler and Tom Nickisson-Richards and Pilot Dave Nicholls from Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance arrived on scene. 

“Once they got Emma out in the garden and the Air Ambulance team turned up, it was almost like the whole situation calmed a little bit,” says James. “They were talking me through what they thought might be going on and that they needed to sedate Emma to make the journey to hospital safer.”  

Emma was intubated by the team and taken by road to University Hospital Southampton, where she underwent an emergency operation to her heart. “I was taken into the relatives’ room where I spoke to the doctors and nurses,” says James. “I was allowed to see Emma in the Resuscitation Room briefly before she was taken to surgery.”  

Because of the Coronavirus restrictions at the time, James waited outside the hospital until 02.30am when he was allowed to visit Emma in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU): “I just couldn’t leave until I knew she had gotten through the operation.” 

James was kindly accompanied by the on-duty receptionist as they walked from the Emergency Department to the ICU.  

“The consultant sat with me for about an hour while I held her hand. But I couldn’t really think straight.”  

Two weeks of “sheer hell” followed for James and his family. “It was horrific; beyond scary. I don't think scary covers it, actually.” He admits to replaying the incident over and over in his mind. “I remember every second, it plays on a loop. The look on her face, her eyes rolling back, her tongue buckling up and her hands spasming.”  

After those two long weeks, Emma was brought out of her coma and began her long road to recovery.  

“My life has changed massively. I've gone from working full time, running around after the kids and being very independent, to not being able to work or even drive,” says Emma. “I've got a hypoxic brain injury - due to a restriction of oxygen to the brain. But I'm so lucky to be able to be walking, talking and everything else that I’m doing.” 

“Even now I sleep with my hand on her to make sure she's still breathing,” says James. “And if I wake up and I'm not sure, I'll just give her a little nudge. It gives you a different perspective of life.” 


“I'm well aware of how serious having a cardiac arrest and being in a coma is. The fact I’m still here on the back of James learning CPR as a boy scout all those years ago is nothing short of a miracle."
Emma Franklin, survivor

“I’m also very fortunate that where I live the first responder got here very quickly. The paramedic and air ambulance played a massive part in me being here too. It’s thanks to them all that I get to see my kids grow up.” 

James took three months off work to look after Emma and the kids, doing all the cooking, cleaning and school runs.  “It was a tough few months trying to keep house and kids together – I don’t think he has any hair left!” Emma jokes. 

Emma adds: “When I was lying in hospital, I set myself a target of doing 100 steps a week, now I am up to 10,000 steps a day. Having my chocolate Labrador Bonnie to walk helps – especially as she’s learned how to open the front door so decides when she wants to go out for a walk! 

“Just walking with my ear pods in in the woods at the back of our house helps me mentally so much. And we have the New Forest on our doorstep so there are a lot of walks to choose from.” 

James’s heroics certainly made an impression on the children, particularly Sonner. “The other day, he gave me a drawing. He’s always loved superheroes like Spiderman and Superman, but he’d made a new one which was a man holding a green box. He told me, ‘It’s CPR Man mum!’” 

And eldest daughter Sophie, 24, and family recently joined James on an epic eight-and-an-half-hour 21-mile walk along the Jurassic Coast last Saturday raising £4000 for the air ambulance, and plan another one next year which they are currently fundraising for

Family friend Kate, daughter Sophie, and James at the finish line of the Jurassic Coast Ultra Challenge

Family friend Kate, daughter Sophie and James stand at the finish line of the Jurassic Coast Ultra challenge, after doing the 34KM challenge in aid of the Air Ambulance and raising over £4,000 with the help of two further team members.


The steps to doing CPR are simple and can be learned in 15 minutes by playing Resuscitation Council UK’s Lifesaver game