Sonia Burton is pictured with, left to right, Student Paramedic Rosie Priest, Paramedic Stephen Eke and Paramedic Jason Riches outside Gala Bingo in Ashington

Ashington mum thanks crew for saving her life

Sonia was clinically dead for nearly an hour

An Ashington mum of four, who was clinically dead for almost an hour after collapsing at work, has been reunited with the ambulance crews who saved her life.

Sonia Burton, aged 50, of Maple Street, had just started her shift at Gala Bingo in Ashington on 25th November when she suddenly collapsed.

Within four minutes, North East Ambulance Service Paramedic Jason Riches and Emergency Care Assistant Gary French were on the scene, and commenced CPR with the help of Sonia’s boss, Karen Arkle.

They were backed up nine minutes later by paramedic Stephen Eke and first year student paramedic Rosie Priest.

For nearly an hour, both inside Gala Bingo and then in the ambulance on the way to Northumbria Specialist Care Hospital in Cramlington, they worked tirelessly to keep Sonia alive, taking it in turns to give CPR, shocking her seven times with a defibrillator and giving her eight doses of adrenaline to try and re-start her heart.

By the time they arrived at hospital, Sonia was still unconscious but had started breathing.

She was transferred by ambulance to Freeman Hospital, where she underwent life-saving surgery to have a stent fitted in her heart.

Eight days later she was back home being cared for her by brother, Mark, and her four children, Michael, Megan, Rebecca, and Thomas.

Sonia says she remembers nothing about the day itself – other than seeing her late husband John while she was unconscious.

“He told me ‘no not yet, I need you to get back for the kids’ – that’s the only thing I can remember,” she said.

“It’s strange to think I was technically dead for an hour. If it wasn’t for the guys being there so quickly and not giving up on me, it would have been a very different story.

“My mind is a bit forgetful and I’m on a lot of medication but otherwise I’m doing really well – and, at the end of the day, I’m still here!”

Mark had been walking the dog when he received the call to say Sonia had collapsed.

Like the rest of Sonia’s family, he immediately made his way to the bingo hall to be with her.

He said: “They were working on her when I got there. It was frantic, there was no life in her at all.

“I said to him ‘Stephen please don’t stop’ and, bless him, he never did.

“I couldn’t be more thankful for everything Stephen, Jason and Gary did for Sonia that day. To see Sonia like she was that day and to see her now is phenomenal, I can’t express just what a good job they’ve done.”

A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood around the body. Someone who is having a cardiac arrest will suddenly lose consciousness and will stop breathing or stop breathing normally.

A cardiac arrest happens when your heart stops pumping blood around your body.

When someone has a cardiac arrest, every minute without CPR and defibrillation reduces their chances of survival by 7–10 per cent.

Sadly, latest national statistics show that on average less than one in 10 cardiac arrest patients who are successfully resuscitated by ambulance service staff go on to survive.

Stephen, aged 43, from Morpeth, said: “Jason and I have over 50 years’ experience between us and neither of us have ever seen somebody come back after that length of time. We often get a return of a pulse, maybe one out of 10, but usually it’s just the adrenaline that’s making the heart work again and as soon as that wears off they go back into cardiac arrest.

“It’s unbelievable to see how well Sonia’s doing now.”

Jason, aged 44, of Blyth, said: “Sonia went from being clinically dead to breathing on her own and having a good strong pulse in just 20 minutes.

“You go into this job to help people. It’s a nice feeling knowing that we were able to make a difference and even better to see what a remarkable recovery she’s made.”

For 18-year-old Teesside University student Rosie, who lives in Middlesbrough and is mentored by Stephen, this was her first experience of real-life CPR.

 “Obviously you train at uni but I don’t think anything can really prepare you for the real thing,” she said.

“I was only three weeks in to my placements, I think I was on my eighth shift, and we hadn’t been to a cardiac arrest yet.

“Before we arrived, Stephen warned me that we might not get her back but I still didn’t know what to expect.

“Everything moves so quickly and the adrenaline kicks in. It was such a relief when we got her back.

“This kind of job is exactly why you train to become a paramedic. You can literally save someone’s life.”

An Ashington mum of four, who was clinically dead for almost an hour after collapsing at work, has been reunited with the ambulance crews who saved her life.

Sonia Burton, aged 50, of Maple Street, had just started her shift at Gala Bingo in Ashington on 25th November when she suddenly collapsed.

Within four minutes, Paramedic Jason Riches and Emergency Care Assistant Gary French were on the scene, and commenced CPR with the help of Sonia’s boss, Karen Arkle.

They were backed up nine minutes later by paramedic Stephen Eke and first year student paramedic Rosie Priest.

For nearly an hour, both inside Gala Bingo and then in the ambulance on the way to Northumbria Specialist Care Hospital in Cramlington, they worked tirelessly to keep Sonia alive, taking it in turns to give CPR, shocking her seven times with a defibrillator and giving her eight doses of adrenaline to try and re-start her heart.

By the time they arrived at hospital, Sonia was still unconscious but had started breathing.

She was transferred by ambulance to Freeman Hospital, where she underwent life-saving surgery to have a stent fitted in her heart.

Eight days later she was back home being cared for her by brother, Mark, and her four children, Michael, Megan, Rebecca, and Thomas.

Sonia says she remembers nothing about the day itself – other than seeing her late husband John while she was unconscious.

“He told me ‘no not yet, I need you to get back for the kids’ – that’s the only thing I can remember,” she said.

“It’s strange to think I was technically dead for an hour. If it wasn’t for the guys being there so quickly and not giving up on me, it would have been a very different story.

“My mind is a bit forgetful and I’m on a lot of medication but otherwise I’m doing really well – and, at the end of the day, I’m still here!”

Mark had been walking the dog when he received the call to say Sonia had collapsed.

Like the rest of Sonia’s family, he immediately made his way to the bingo hall to be with her.

He said: “They were working on her when I got there. It was frantic, there was no life in her at all.

“I said to him ‘Stephen please don’t stop’ and, bless him, he never did.

“I couldn’t be more thankful for everything Stephen, Jason and Gary did for Sonia that day. To see Sonia like she was that day and to see her now is phenomenal, I can’t express just what a good job they’ve done.”

A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood around the body. Someone who is having a cardiac arrest will suddenly lose consciousness and will stop breathing or stop breathing normally.

A cardiac arrest happens when your heart stops pumping blood around your body.

When someone has a cardiac arrest, every minute without CPR and defibrillation reduces their chances of survival by 7–10 per cent.

Sadly, latest national statistics show that on average less than one in 10 cardiac arrest patients who are successfully resuscitated by ambulance service staff go on to survive.

Stephen, aged 43, from Morpeth, said: “Jason and I have over 50 years’ experience between us and neither of us have ever seen somebody come back after that length of time. We often get a return of a pulse, maybe one out of 10, but usually it’s just the adrenaline that’s making the heart work again and as soon as that wears off they go back into cardiac arrest.

“It’s unbelievable to see how well Sonia’s doing now.”

Jason, aged 44, of Blyth, said: “Sonia went from being clinically dead to breathing on her own and having a good strong pulse in just 20 minutes.

“You go into this job to help people. It’s a nice feeling knowing that we were able to make a difference and even better to see what a remarkable recovery she’s made.”

For 18-year-old Teesside University student Rosie, who lives in Middlesbrough and is mentored by Stephen, this was her first experience of real-life CPR.

 “Obviously you train at uni but I don’t think anything can really prepare you for the real thing,” she said.

“I was only three weeks in to my placements, I think I was on my eighth shift, and we hadn’t been to a cardiac arrest yet.

“Before we arrived, Stephen warned me that we might not get her back but I still didn’t know what to expect.

“Everything moves so quickly and the adrenaline kicks in. It was such a relief when we got her back.

“This kind of job is exactly why you train to become a paramedic. You can literally save someone’s life.”

Share this page

Copyright 2011 North East Ambulance Service Trust

Back to top

Enable Recite