Colin and Annette Oxberry are pictured with, left to right, Joanne Metcalf, Ian Hunwick, Imogen Newby, Melanie Brown and Emily Claridge.

Thank you for saving my life

Colin’s back in the saddle thanks to ambulance team

A Durham grandfather whose life was saved by the swift actions of his wife and staff at North East Ambulance Service has been able to thank his lifesavers personally.

Colin Oxberry, aged 60, suffered a cardiac arrest at his home in Durham earlier this year after returning home from a 10-mile bike ride.

His wife, Annette, immediately called 999 and, with the help of health advisor Melanie Brown, began administering life-saving CPR until the arrival of paramedic Ian Hunwick and clinical care assistant Joanne Metcalf minutes later.

“Luckily we were only a few minutes away from their home when the call was passed to us,” said Ian, who qualified as a paramedic two years ago, having already worked for NEAS for five years.

“When we arrived, Colin was in full cardiac arrest and was making no respiratory effort but Annette had been doing really good CPR, which makes all the difference, and was still on the phone to Mel.”

Together they took over CPR and shocked Colin twice with a defibrillator before being backed up by paramedic Imogen Newby and clinical care assistant Emily Claridge.

“It was very much a team effort,” added Ian. “It took us a lot to get him back, I think we shocked him 11 or 12 times with a defibrillator in total, but he was very lucky.”

“We never know what situation you’re going to walk into,” said Emily, who joined NEAS two years ago. “You don’t get a huge amount of detail through when you’re travelling but knowing CPR is in progress makes all the difference, it’s a relief.”

Colin has since made a full recovery and contacted North East Ambulance Service straight away to thank the crew.

“It’s something that came quite out of the blue,” he said. “I’m not what you would call heart attack material – I’ve always done competitive sport, have competed in a few Great North Runs and I’m a regular cycler. Yet one of the main arteries in my heart was blocked. It just shows that it can happen to anyone, I feel very lucky.

“I’ve since found out that only five per cent of people survive this sort of incident. I realise how close I came and you can’t thank the people that saved you enough, it’s a debt you can never repay. They gave me more time with my children and grandchildren. These people are literally life savers and the only thing I can do is say thank you.”

Annette added: “Without Melanie’s calm instructions I would not have been able to help my husband until the paramedics arrived.

“Their prompt response to my 999 call, their professionalism and their determination not to give up, ensured Colin was able to receive the appropriate treatment in hospital. They also ensured we as a family were kept up to date with what was happening in the hospital, and what had happened in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Their concern for me and my family was very much appreciated.”

Last year, health advisors at NEAS supported more than 2,000 999 callers to give CPR.

Melanie, who joined NEAS two years ago, said: “Annette was very focused and calm and followed the instructions I gave her really well, despite the magnitude of the situation she was faced with.

“In many ways the person I’m talking to is my patient rather than the person they’re supporting. I’m thrilled to have been able to meet Colin but it’s even better to meet Annette. We support so many people at the worst times in their lives but very rarely get to actually meet the people we have helped.”

Imogen, who qualified as a paramedic seven years ago, added: “Without Annette starting CPR, Colin’s outcome could have been very different. It really does make all the difference and without it can make our job impossible.

“Unfortunately this sort of outcome is quite rare so it’s great to be able to meet Colin and see him looking so well.”

Currently less than one in 10 people in Britain survive an out of hospital cardiac arrest, with regional statistics showing that over a quarter (27%) of adults living in the North East wouldn’t perform CPR if they saw someone suffer a cardiac arrest.

In a bid to raise the profile of the importance of learning life-saving CPR, NEAS supported thousands of school children and members of the public across the North East to learn vital CPR skills as part of the international Restart a Heart campaign earlier this month, which could one day help them save the life of someone like Colin.

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Copyright 2011 North East Ambulance Service Trust

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