Clinical care manager Ben Barber, Valerie Craig and Michael Evans

Right place, right time for patient who suffered a cardiac arrest

A 51 year-old man from County Durham has been reunited with the ambulance crew so he could thank them for saving his life.

Michael Evans had a cardiac arrest in the back of an ambulance while being transported to James Cook University Hospital.

Initially Michael went to Darlington Memorial Hospital in December with chest pains.  As he approached A&E, his symptoms worsened.  He was spotted by paramedic Kevin Dinning and clinical care assistant Andrew Wallace who were handing over another patient at the time.

The crew set up an electrocardiogram (ECG) on Michael to check his heart and found that he was having a massive heart attack. The crew then immediately began to transfer Michael to James Cook Hospital and on the journey he went into cardiac arrest.

Michael’s partner Valerie Craig was in the back of the ambulance at the time. She said:

“It was awful to see everything that happened to Michael, but I just knew he was in the best place at the time.”

The crew managed to resuscitate Michael and continued onto James Cook Hospital where he was rushed straight to surgery.

Michael and Valerie wanted to meet the crew who saved his life. Michael said:

“If it wasn’t for the crew, I genuinely think I would have died.

“We were shopping in Darlington town centre when I started getting a tightness around my chest.  We started to walk back to the car when I started to feel really unwell. Little did I know that I was having a heart attack, but knew I had to get to hospital as something just wasn’t right.

“Once the lads had realised I was having a heart attack, it wasn’t long before I went into cardiac arrest. The strangest thing happened next; as I became unconscious I felt this very warm, tranquil and painless feeling pass over me. The next thing I remembered was being in the hospital and thinking ‘I will never be luckier in my life to have a cardiac arrest in an ambulance and live to tell the tale’.

“We have had a few tears about what happened and have talked a lot about that day and we just realise that life is for living. You don’t appreciate life properly until something happens to you. It has really changed my life.”

Andrew said, “It was within 5-10 minutes of us leaving the hospital that Michael crashed.  I’ve only been in the Trust for a short while, but for me Michael as a patient was the best outcome from having a cardiac arrest.  It’s the first incident where I’ve been able to meet the patient again and seeing such a good outcome for a patient is really satisfying.”

Clinical care manager Ben Barber was on duty that day and supervised Kevin and Andrew as they dealt with the emergency.  He remembered the job well and said:

“Michael really was in the right place at the right time.  He was very fortunate to get the treatment he needed to save his life.

“When an emergency takes place, the patient’s family or bystanders who are there can sometimes struggle mentally with the aftermath of what has happened, as they may see things that are very unnatural to them. It can sometimes creep up with people and we would encourage anyone to speak to their GP or seek support through cardiac survivor groups.

“Frontline staff see life-threatening emergencies all the time, but for members of the public, it can have an effect.

“Michael was really lucky, as the crew had a defibrillator at hand which re-started his heart. But for those patients that have a cardiac arrest in public places, there may not be access to a defibrillator which can reduce their chances of survival. The North East Ambulance Service Charitable Fund is currently offering to part fund £500 towards a community defibrillator and more information can be found here:

“Quite often people have a massive sense of wanting to give back to the ambulance service after crews have saved their life, but it’s just our job at the end of the day and we did it well in this case as Michael has made such a good recovery.”

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Copyright 2011 North East Ambulance Service Trust

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