Childhood heroes rewarded for bravery

“They were absolute superstars and acted superbly”

Two children who came to the rescue of their grandad have been rewarded with bravery certificates by North East Ambulance Service.

Thalia Spencer, aged 10, enlisted the help of Siri to call 999 when her grandad Wilf collapsed at his home in Norton on 1 August.

Thalia’s phone call was put through to North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) health advisor, Lynsey McLaughlin, and whilst Lynsey talked her through CPR, her six-year-old sister Adriyanna held her grandad’s hand, before running out to meet the ambulance crews when they arrived minutes later.

Despite the crews’ best efforts, trying to save Wilf’s life for 45 minutes, he passed away. It is believed he had suffered a pulmonary embolism.

Dual-trained 999 and 111 health advisor Lynsey, who has been taking the region’s calls since 2015, was so impressed with the way the girls handled the situation that she put them forward for a bravery award.

“I’ve spoken to plenty of children during the time I’ve worked for the ambulance service, but no-one has ever impressed me the way Thalia has,” she said.

“It was clear I was speaking to a child, but I was floored by how mature and brave she was – she took that call better than most adults, she was amazing!

“She listened carefully to my instructions and did everything I asked of her without questioning.

“Obviously the situation was really distressing but she managed to keep a calm, cool head on her and she obviously carried out brilliant chest compressions because the crew got a rhythm which is really rare.

“Once I learned that she was only 10, I really felt that she and her sister deserved some recognition and praise for their bravery and maturity in that awful situation. Thalia and Adriyanna experienced something really shocking and frightening, yet they worked together and did their very best for their grandad. They were absolute superstars and acted superbly.”

Paramedic Cheryl Lal, who joined NEAS in 2017, was first on scene with clinical care assistant Peter Dawson.

She said: “Adriyanna was waving us down, which was a huge help as it meant we didn’t have to look for the property. When we walked into the house, Thalia doing CPR whilst on the phone to the ambulance service. I was astounded at how good she was for her age.

“It was so important for CPR to be done to give her grandad the best chance possible, which I believed she did do as he was still in a shockable rhythm. I explained this to her afterwards as I couldn't get over how a girl of this age had just taken control of the situation and knew what to do. I would be so so proud if this was my daughter. 

“Both girls were amazing in a very distressing situation and we’re so pleased to be able to recognise them for their efforts.”

Peter, who joined NEAS in July 2021, added: “This was the first time I had been first on scene at a cardiac arrest and I was nervous going into the house.

“Once we had taken over, Thalia kept saying sorry as she didn't believe she had done it hard enough and it broke my heart. She did the absolute best she could to give her grandad the best chance of survival and she should be so proud of herself. To think that these girls were so calm and did what they did was amazing.”

Specialist paramedic Sean Storey, who is based at Hartlepool North station, added: “It is very important to do CPR prior to our arrival as doing CPR is part of the chain of survivability for anyone in cardiac arrest, it allows oxygen to keep flowing and stop the death of tissues, as a person's brain will cease to function several minutes after the heart stops beating. If CPR is also performed, it can increase the chances of survival from an out of hospital cardiac arrest.

“Unfortunately, it was a sad outcome in this case. However, at the end of the resus, I spoke to the two young children and said what an amazing job they had done to give their grandad the best chance of survival. They did a fantastic job in the most difficulties of circumstances.”

The girls’ father, Paul, added his praise and thanks to the children.

“They were actually supposed to go somewhere else that day but for some reason I sent them to grandma and grandad’s,” he said.

“Dad was 80 and had had three bypasses and a stroke; he was a fighter and I know would have fought to stay alive. He would be massively proud of Thalia and Adriyanna, as are we all.

“They go to an excellent school and have been taught bits and pieces about not panicking and helping, and obviously Lynsey talked Thalia through what to do to try and save Dad’s life. Ok, he didn’t survive but at least he had a fighting chance – if it wasn’t for Thalia, he wouldn’t have had any chance.

“The message I’d like people to take away from this is to try and stay calm and at least have a go. You could just save someone’s life.”

Thalia said: “In my head I was scared for Grandad and shocked, but despite that I wanted him to live so I tried my best to keep him breathing. I just wish he was still here.”

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Copyright 2011 North East Ambulance Service Trust

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