Ambulance team reunites with four-year-old and her mum who helped save dad from drowning
Early Christmas present for Lucy
When 36-year old engineer Craig Pearce from Gateshead got into the bath with his then 3-year old, Lucy, and his 18-month old Euan, he could never have expected to wake up in hospital after what was to be an incredibly traumatic experience for his wife and children.
After a day of shopping for an anniversary card on Thursday 30 July, Craig and his family were preparing for a holiday the next day when he took poorly whilst in the bath with his children and slipped under the water.
His quick-thinking daughter Lucy shouted ‘Daddy, Daddy, Daddy’, which alerted mum, Sarah, to what sounded like a lot of splashing and a worried child.
What she found in the bathroom sparked an adrenaline rush so strong, she was able to pull Craig, 13 stone, out of the bath onto the floor. Lucy helped by unplugging the bath and Sarah quickly lifted both children out, putting Euan safe in his cot where she had to leave him to fend for himself, dripping wet and crying, whilst she called 999 and commenced CPR.
Describing the scene, Sarah explained, “I don’t know how I did it. I knew the kids were safe but the screams were horrific. He wasn’t taking a gasp. I found the phone but I couldn’t get it on speaker - my hands were shaking that much.”
Sarah’s 999 call was answered by 20-year old health advisor Hannah Watson from North East Ambulance Service (NEAS). Hannah gives CPR support over the phone two or three times every week and she remembered Sarah’s call.
Reunited with the family and attending crew shortly before Christmas, she said, “I remember the children crying in the background and how distressed Sarah was. The thing that stuck with me was when the ambulance crew arrived, I heard her say 'please help me.' It was a very emotional call. I wished I was actually there to help her - I know how difficult it would have been to do CPR on someone you love but she was amazing.
“At the start of the call she was very panicked, I managed to get her calm and instructed CPR. She helped save her husband’s life and no doubt she is one of the reasons he is still here today. She should be so proud of herself! It’s not often we find out the outcome of our patients and I am so happy to hear he is back home with his family.”
Sarah continued, “I was pumping Craig’s chest and waiting for him to gasp and cough. It felt like forever until the ambulance came. When the ambulance arrived, it was awful leaving him to unlock to the door to the paramedics.”
NEAS dispatch team deployed three resources to Craig’s house that day and Hannah ended the 999 call when she heard paramedics Lindsay Westwood, Josephine Mitchinson and specialist paramedic Sean Storey, along with clinical care assistants Stephen Jennings and Lee Marshall.
Lindsay, who qualified as a paramedic two years ago, was first on scene with Stephen Jennings. She explained, “Myself and Stephen were headed back to station for a meal break when we alerted and dispatched to a category 1 call for a 36-year old drowning. When we arrived on scene, Sarah met us at the bottom of the stairs and was understandably panicking. Craig was lying on the bathroom floor. Sarah had done all the hard work before we got there - I have no idea how she had the strength to get him out alone. I can’t comprehend how hard it is to do CPR on a loved one. Sarah was amazing! Craig was at very high risk of stopping breathing again. We treated him with everything we could at home, then we just needed to get him to hospital ASAP.”
Together, the team helped to manage Craig’s airway and safely get him to the ambulance, navigating a very upset family dog and down stairs with safety gates on.
Specialist paramedic Sean Storey joined the service 13 years ago after a six-year career in the Royal Navy. He spent ten years in the NEAS Hazardous Area Response Team since its inception ten years ago before moving into a new role as a specialist response. He was dispatched to support the crews on scene and travelled to hospital with Josie and Lindsay to support Craig on route.
Despite his time in the service, father of two Sean has never reunited with a patient he has attended. After a reunion with the family, he said, “We often never get to hear about a patient after we’ve treated them. It’s really brought it home to me to see that these children will get to grow up knowing their dad. It will stick with me for a while having met them all again. This is why we come to work.”
Lindsay added, “We checked up on Craig with the hospital but we didn’t know what sort of a recovery he had made. Meeting someone of Craig’s age having made a recovery like this after such a traumatic event was quite emotional. To see how they are doing today really is why we do the job. I am so proud to have played our part.”
On arrival at Gateshead Queen Elizabeth hospital, the doctors prepared Sarah for the worst but luckily the next day he started to improve and by the Saturday he was awake and talking.
Sarah added, “I didn’t want my kids to grow up without a daddy, Craig is a fantastic dad - I love Craig so much. We’ve been together for 8 years. Lucy heard and saw quite a bit of what was going on and she managed to get herself dressed and in to bed on her own – she didn’t know what else to do. I just wanted him to wake up.”
“The whole event was a lot for Lucy to deal with. Her birthday was the Sunday and she didn’t understand what was happening. We weren’t going on holiday, where was daddy and would she still have her birthday? We are just so grateful for everyone’s help. The more Craig improves, the better I feel. With him by my side, we’ll be OK and I hope that by telling my story it might help someone else, who might be scared or not know how or when to give CPR.”
Craig added, “I don’t remember anything about what happened but the more people I talk to in the medical profession, the more I realise how close I was to dying. The guilt at what I put everyone through really upsets me.”
Craig continues to recover and hopes to return to work in 2021 and the family are looking forward to meeting their new addition in Spring. Sarah now realises that she was in the early stages of pregnancy when she pulled her husband from the bath. They hope their story might give others the confidence to act in an emergency.
Eighty percent of out of hospital sudden cardiac arrests occur in the home. A person’s chance of surviving a cardiac arrest reduces by 10 percent for every minute without CPR and defibrillation.
CPR skills can be learned. More information is available at: https://bhf.org.uk.