Gary Callum with paramedic Marcin Andrzejewski

Whickham man reunited with the paramedic who saved his life

“They might think they were just doing their job but the job they are doing is saving lives, and I’m proof of that.”

Gary Callum was at the gym when he realised something was wrong.

Little did he know, he was having a heart attack.

On calling his wife Jane, a former nurse, when he got home, the 62-year-old was instructed to call North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) immediately.

“I didn’t have any of the usual symptoms you would expect, I just wasn’t 100%,” he said. “My wife knew what was happening but didn’t want to worry me, she just told me to call 999 straight away.

“It was the first time I had ever called 999 and I was trying to answer the questions as best I could, but by now I was now in pain and it was getting worse. Luckily, my wife rang my neighbour as soon as she spoke to me, and he took the phone off me to finish answering the questions for me.”

When paramedic Marcin Andrzejewski and his crewmate Brian Lonie arrived on scene, Gary had become pale and clammy, and it was immediately clear to them he was having a heart attack.

“A quick family history confirmed to us that there was a history of heart disease,” said Marcin, who made the North East home when he moved here from Poland to join NEAS in 2016 and is now based at Prudhoe ambulance station.

“We gave him pre-meds and then made our way to the Freeman Hospital. On the way there, he went into cardiac arrest in the ambulance, but he thankfully came back almost instantly with just one shock of the defibrillator.”

Cardiac arrests are often confused with heart attacks. Although a heart attack can cause a cardiac arrest, they are not the same thing and having a cardiac arrest does not mean you have had a heart attack. A heart attack occurs due to a blockage in one of the arteries, whilst a cardiac arrest occurs as a result of an abnormal heart rhythm

A cardiac arrest can strike anybody, at any time, in any place, and a person’s chances of survival reduces by 10 per cent for every minute without CPR and defibrillation.

Gary was taken straight to surgery, where it was confirmed he had a clot in his artery and required a stent fitting. He was out of hospital two days later and is now recovering well.

He was able to meet up with Marcin again earlier this week.

“He literally saved my life and I just wanted to be able to thank him in person,” said Gary.

“The service I received couldn’t have been any better, they were so professional and couldn’t have been any more reassuring.

“They might think they were just doing their job but the job they are doing is saving lives, and I’m proof of that.”

“I was in the services for 20 years and have always kept myself healthy, but it just goes to show this can happen to anyone. I feel great now, and I just feel extremely grateful.”

Marcin, aged 32, added: “Not everyone would have thought to call 999 but had Gary left it much longer, the outcome could have been very different. The fact that was in relatively good shape I’m sure has helped as well.

“I’ve never had the opportunity to meet a patient again so I was curious to see him again. This has got to be the greatest reward you can get in this job!”

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Copyright 2011 North East Ambulance Service Trust

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