A Newcastle family reunite with the crew who saved his life when he called 999.

1st May 2024

Duncan Stuart reunites with crew outside of ambulanceDuncan Stuart, father of three from South Gosforth needed urgent help from North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) when he experienced swelling on the left side of his face.

On 1 May last year, Duncan experienced swelling under his eye which began to spread rapidly and he struggled to walk. After sending a photo to his paramedic daughter, Jennifer, she knew an ambulance was required to get him the care he needed quickly.

One year on, Duncan Stuart reunited with the crew who saved his life in May 2023. Jennifer Stuart, a paramedic from another service also attended the reunion with her dad. She also thanked the crew for their care and how they saved her dad’s life that day.

Health advisor from emergency operations centre at Bernicia House, Hannah Dickson first took the call from Duncan’s stepdaughter, Emma just after 8am and dispatched a crew as quickly as possible.

Hannah said: “The initial call came in from Duncan’s stepdaughter, Emma who remained calm and gave me all the information I needed at the time. Duncan also remained calm and co-operated with the triage which then led to arranging a category one response and get help straight to him. 

He explained the severity of the swelling and I could hear when triaging him his breathing difficulty. I reassured Duncan that help was on its way, and the crew were travelling as quickly as they could on the highest response.

“I have been a health advisor for around 18 months and it’s fair to say love my job. I took on the role as I wanted to feel purpose from my job and feel as though I was helping others. Some days are tougher than others. However, seeing and hearing the results of Duncan is one of the many positives within my role.”

Once an ambulance was dispatched, Hexham crew, paramedic Paulina Wieclaw and clinical care assistant, Mark Clay arrived at the scene within 30 minutes.

Paulina said: “As soon as we arrived at Duncan’s home, I focused on gathering detailed history to be able to establish what was wrong and to be able to give high standard care. I had to recognise the underlying issue and act quickly to make sure the patient received the right treatment and reach further care at hospital to increase his chance of survival.”

Paulina graduated as a paramedic in Poland but moved to the North East in 2013 and has worked as a paramedic at NEAS for five years. Before applying for the job at NEAS, she studied English so she could communicate easily with colleagues and patients.

The crew initially suspected it was anaphylactic shock but at hospital, but later at hospital he was diagnosed with strep A, sepsis and necrotising fasciitis (a bacterial infection that destroys areas of the skin).

Duncan was taken to RVI hospital in Newcastle by ambulance and was put into a coma within 30 minutes of arrival.Duncan Stuart and Paulina Wieclaw.jpg

Duncan added: “The hospital staff told me I had a slim chance of survival but with the response from NEAS, I spent 42 days in hospital, 10 of which were in a coma, but I survived and I am still recovering a year on.”

“I received excellent care from the crew and without them, I wouldn’t be here today. I wanted to meet the crew in person and thank them for what they did for me. I owe them my life and I thank them from the bottom of my heart. I think they’re brilliant for what they do.”

On reuniting with the crew, Duncan added: “I would like to say a big thank you to the care I received from Paulina and her quick thinking but also to Mark for swiftly and safely getting me to the hospital. I would also like to thank Hannah for her reassurance on the phone with my stepdaughter.”