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Wedding heart-stopper as groom needs CPR

Tanya and Malcolm Jondahl have spent their honeymoon in hospital.
Tanya and Malcolm Jondahl have spent their honeymoon in hospital. NZH

A NORTHLAND, NZ couple had a dramatic start to married life after the groom had to be brought back to life minutes before exchanging vows with his beloved.

Malcolm Jondahl had just finished dressing for his big day when he collapsed.

Bridesmaid Hannah Fraser, who spoke to the Herald on Sunday on behalf of Jondahl and his bride Tanya, said Jondahl had been diagnosed with heart disease, but had never collapsed before.

A nurse who was a guest at the wedding on a farm in remote Parakao, 45km west of Whangarei, last Saturday performed CPR as Tanya was rushed to his side, Fraser said.

"He came around as Tanya arrived. By the time the [rescue] helicopter arrived the decision had been made to [still] get married."

Friends and family watched as Jondahl, who was lying down, exchanged vows with his sweetheart in a shortened ceremony, she said.

The Whangarei couple, aged in their 30s, then left for Whangarei Hospital by Northland Emergency Services Trust rescue helicopter.

"Tanya went to hospital in her wedding gown and their honeymoon has been spent in the coronary care unit."

Last night he was in a satisfactory condition.

Trust pilot Russell Procter was part of the crew that flew to Jondahl's aid. They did not know the emergency was at a wedding until they flew overhead, Procter said.

"I said [to the other pilot] 'let's hope it's not the groom'. As it turned out it was."

Tanya, who was kneeling next to her new husband, told the paramedic they "rushed through" the wedding before the helicopter arrived.

"The paramedic said words to the effect of 'get a man while he's down' ... they had a good old laugh."

Jondahl was alert and the couple made it clear they wanted the estimated 100 guests to continue the celebration in their absence.

"As they left [she] said 'just make sure everyone enjoys themselves and has a good afternoon. We'll be okay'," Procter said.

Despite the situation, there was a "happy feeling" on the helicopter as they made the 12 minute journey to Whangarei Hospital.

"They were married, but not the way they planned it."

The couple later snapped a selfie in the hospital's emergency room. In it, Tanya remains in her wedding gown and the pair smile broadly for the camera.

Fraser said they wanted to mark the occasion, despite Jondahl's health scare.

"They took it to mark that they were married despite being in the emergency room and all that had happened and [it] shows them happy to be married."

The couple wanted to thank the helicopter crew and Whangarei Hospital staff for their care, she said.

"They've been fantastic."

They wouldn't say if they have children, but Malcolm has posted photographs on his Facebook page describing himself as the father of a young son.

He began studying as a chef at North Tec in 2007, the same year he won Northland's Best Pie competition with his recipe of smoked marlin and paua pie. He had previously spent two years working as a cook in Canada.

The couple hoped in future "to have the wedding and honeymoon they wanted", but did not want to talk about Jondahl's prognosis, Fraser said. "They are hoping that he will recover."

- Herald on Sunday

Topics:  cpr editors picks first aid groom heart disease rescue helicopter weddings


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