Hayley, Charley, David, Demelza, Liz, Richard, Tanya, Janice and John

Doctor converted - on road to Hexham

Northumberland doctor Richard Sill was a sceptic when it comes to providing CPR training to members of the public.

But he’s only alive today because several passers-by, including two nurses, came together to administer CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) after he collapsed as he cycled to Hexham.

Richard, 64, a consultant obstetrician with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, lives in Whalton and was cycling to work at Hexham General Hospital.

“I was two miles away from Hexham when I collapsed.  I woke up 45 minutes later in an ambulance.  I had gone into ventricular fibrillation, triggered by a mild heart attack.  I’m now back at work – which is not bad for someone who was dead for almost half an hour.”

He added:  “I was sceptical, but I’m a believer now – converted not on the road to Damascus, but on the road to Hexham.  I go for CPR refresher training every year but I was less convinced that it was useful for members of the public, although the people who run the courses say the statistics are pretty grim – only 10% of people survive an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.”

The efforts of everyone involved achieved the return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) before he was taken to the RVI and then transferred to the Freeman Hospital and has had two stents inserted.  Apart from returning to work, he is also cycling again.

And as a thank you he organised a reunion at Matfen Hall for six of the passers-by – Charley Higham, Janice de Vere, Liz Poole, Demelza Gregory and Tanya Cassidy, along with school bus driver John Smith who called 999 - and the ambulance crew David Hare and Hayley Robertson who were called to the scene.

David said:  “When we arrived, there had been good, effective CPR.  Without it, there would have been a very different outcome.  It’s really good to see Mr Sill much improved and on the road to recovery.”

Charley is a staff nurse at RVI A&E in Newcastle.  She said:  “I was flagged down by two men.  I checked for a pulse and for any injuries.  There wasn’t a community defibrillator nearby, but we all worked together, even though we were all strangers.”  And Tanya added:  “You have no idea how you’re going to react, but it was a terrific combined effort.”

Dr Sill added:  “Bystander CPR is so important to help increase the chances of someone surviving a cardiac arrest. I would encourage anyone to attend a training course. You might be the difference to someone surviving or not.”

Cardiac arrest survival begins with the first person who recognises someone is unresponsive and takes urgent emergency action of first calling 999 for an ambulance and then beginning CPR.

Approximately 60,000 people suffer a cardiac arrest out of hospital in England every year and of these, 28,000 patients will have resuscitation started or continued by the ambulance service. Survival rates for cardiac arrest patients is 8.6%. This is significantly lower than for populations in other developed countries like Holland (21%) and Norway (25%).

The current rate of initial bystander CPR in England is reported as being 43% compared to up to 73% in other countries. A cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival falls by around 7 to 10 percent with every minute that defibrillation is delayed.  The recent Restart a Heart Day forms part of the community push for resuscitation that the Trust has been doing this year. A defibrillator campaign was launched to target 60 areas throughout the region that are in desperate need of a lifesaving public accessible defibrillator.

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