Gateshead woman reunited with ambulance crews who saved her life

Latest patient to support Restart a Heart

A 26-year-old woman from Gateshead has been reunited with the ambulance crews who saved her life after she suffered a cardiac arrest at home.

Dawn Foster was at home in Wrekenton with her partner Carl Walmsley and her dad Keith in April 2015 when she began to feel unwell. Moments later she began having a seizure followed by a cardiac arrest.

“Carl rang for an ambulance and while he was on the phone to the call handler I went grey and had a cardiac arrest in my dad’s arms,” she said.

With instructions over the phone from the 999 call handler, Keith immediately began cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), keeping the blood pumping around Dawn’s body until the arrival of North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) paramedic Sandra Glencourse and student paramedic Jordan Short three minutes later, backed up by St John Ambulance Service technician crew Alex Bushby and Jamie Sullivan.

With support from Alex and Jamie, Sandra and Jordan gave Dawn three shocks with a defibrillator, before Dawn’s body finally responded and they regained a return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC).

Dawn was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and, after discovering she had an underlying heart condition, has now had an internal defibrillator fitted.

Dawn has now been reunited with both crews to thank them for saving her life.

Keith said: “We were just sitting watching TV and Dawn said she didn’t feel very well.  She had been out the night before so I put it down to her having a hangover but as I turned to face her, her head went back and she started having a seizure.

“I held her while Carl rang 999 and she suddenly went grey.

“Carl held the phone to me while I did CPR and in what seemed like seconds I could see the flashing blue lights through the window. After that, it’s all a blur.

“I can’t thank them enough for looking after Dawn. They did an absolutely fantastic job.”

“My dad doing CPR and the paramedics getting to me quickly and the great work they did saved my life,” said Dawn.

“I’ve always wanted to meet them again to say thank you but it’s taken me a while to come to terms with what happened, it still doesn’t seem real.

“I’ve since been diagnosed with an extremely rare heart condition called Long QT Syndrome, which is a fault with the electrics in my heart. You don’t think anything like this is going to happen to you, I’m just so thankful I’m still here.”

Sandra, who joined NEAS in 2003 as an advanced technician and qualified as a paramedic in 2008, said Keith’s quick actions undoubtedly made a difference to Dawn’s chance to survival.

“CPR can be physically demanding and must be extremely difficult when it’s on someone you love, but Keith did a fantastic job,” she said. “He did really good CPR which meant oxygen was still getting to Dawn’s brain and she was still making respiratory efforts.

“Patients like Dawn are why we do the job we do. To see how well she is doing now really makes our job worthwhile.”

Jordan, who qualified as a paramedic last year and is now based in Swalwell, added: “Once you bring patients into hospital you don’t always get to find out what happens to them, particularly patients who are as poorly as Dawn was. As well as being able to see her now she’s well, it’s good to be able to find out what’s happened since.”

For Alex, meeting Dawn again was all the more special. Now working in Leeds for Yorkshire Ambulance Service as an advanced technician, Alex travelled back up to Gateshead specifically for the reunion.

She said: “Dawn was actually one of my first cardiac arrests so I’ve never forgotten her. Being able to meet her again now and to see the difference you’ve made to her life really gives you confirmation that you’ve chosen the right career. “

Jamie added: “It’s nice to see they are so appreciative of the help we gave them that night and to be able to see her looking so well and to meet her family again.”

Dawn is the latest person to add her support to NEAS’s Restart a Heart Campaign, which aims to train schoolchildren throughout the North East in CPR skills on 16 October.

“I think it’s really important that CPR is taught in schools,” she said. “Imagine how many lives could be saved if more people knew how to do CPR and first aid.”

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Copyright 2011 North East Ambulance Service Trust

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