Chris Browitt with NEAS staff (left to right) Graeme Cutty, Louise Fawcus, Charlotte Saul and Hollie Hicks

“Thank you for saving my life!”

Cardiac arrest survivor meets the ambulance workers who helped save his life

A Northumberland grandfather who is enjoying a new lease of life after surviving a cardiac arrest last year has been reunited with some of the ambulance workers who saved his life.

Chris Browitt suffered a cardiac arrest in bed at his home in Ellington in April 2022. 

Thankfully, his wife Alice was woken by the rasping sound and immediately dialled 999, where health advisor Charlotte Saul was able to talk her through CPR until the arrival of the ambulance crew.

CPR is a key part of the chain of survivability for anyone in cardiac arrest, allowing oxygen to keep flowing and ultimately increasing a person’s chances of survival. Early CPR can more than double a person’s chances of survival.

Charlotte was only four months into her role at North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) when she took Alice’s call and Chris was one of her first CPR calls.

“Alice did an amazing job calling 999 and doing exactly what I needed her to,” she said. 

“It's so important that the caller listens carefully to what I'm asking and advising - I know it's an awful situation to be in but I'm here to guide them through what you need to do while we get a crew to them, and I was with Alice the whole step of the way until the crew arrived to take over.”

Alice said: “I didn’t know what to do but Charlotte was so calm and calmed me down so I could help Chris. She told me to start CPR and then talked me through it and supported me until the ambulance crew arrived, telling me when they were only two minutes away.”

Ambulance dispatcher Hollie Hicks, who has worked within the dispatch team at NEAS for seven years, was responsible for ensuring all the resources reached Chris quickly.

She said: “We have to act fast and find the closest possible resource to the patient and either divert them or try and get someone clear off another job, or from the hospital or off their meal break.

“On this occasion, it was a really busy night and I only had one ambulance crew available so I went out to a general broadcast, which means we speak to all the crews over their radios and advise them we have a category 1 call and where it’s located to see if anyone can make themselves available to assist.

Alice Walker with EOC staff

“Doing this, I managed to get a paramedic crew from Cramlington to also run up to the job and set the specialist car off from Newcastle. I was aware the run time for the specialist was quite long due to incident location but they are the most qualified resources for dealing with cardiac arrests so it would be beneficial for the patient that they attended, especially if the crew got a successful resuscitation, which thankfully in this instance they did.”

Paramedic Louise Fawcus, who joined NEAS three years ago, was one of those first crews on scene.

“Going to cardiac arrests we always talk through it as a team, how we are going to proceed once we arrive depending if we are first on scene or second, which helps everyone understand their roles and helps it run smoother,” said Louise.

“Alice was very calm and made sure we had all information we needed to help her husband despite it being early hours and the fact her husband was so critical.”

Working as a team, the crews managed to successfully resuscitate Chris, prior to the arrival of specialist paramedic Graeme Cutty.

Graeme, who joined NEAS in 2002 before qualifying as a paramedic in 2006, has been part of the specialist paramedic team since it launched at NEAS in 2019. 

Together, they provide additional clinical and leadership at an incident, and are able to improve outcomes for patients who are critically unwell.

He said: “When I arrived, Chris had already been successfully resuscitated by the crews, but was still critically unwell and unconscious. The crew reported that he had recently been diagnosed with some severe heart problems and had been informed by his GP that his outlook was "bleak".

“I undertook an Ultrasound of his heart, which showed that the ventricles were not contracting as they should. I made sure that he was as clinically stable as he could be before rapidly transferring him to hospital, being aware that he was at high-risk of having a further cardiac arrest. I had to intervene and manually assist his ventilations enroute to hospital as his breathing deteriorated.”

The retired geophysicist was placed in an induced coma and spent three days on life support, but has gone on to make a full recovery. The grandfather of Evie (12) and Esther (9) is now making the most of retirement, returning to an active life, which sees him enjoying family holidays with Alice and even taking up paddleboarding.Chris Browitt

Having seen first-hand the difference it has made to them, Alice and Chris are now passionate about spreading the word about the importance of carrying out CPR.

And, as he approaches his one-year anniversary, he has now been able to meet back up with some of his life-savers to thank them. 

“I am so pleased that I have managed to maintain the healthy and active lifestyle following my cardiac arrest - all as a result of the excellent response and actions from the ambulance team and the care provided in the intensive care unit,” said Chris.

Alice added: “I was initially told that he was unlikely to pull through so I am incredibly relieved that he has made a full recovery and is back doing all the activities he enjoyed prior to his cardiac arrest as well as new ones.

“The ambulance team were amazing and we just wanted to be able to thank them all for the part they played in saving Chris’s life. We had already been able to thank all the hospital staff who cared for him but without these guys I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do that.

“It’s been wonderful to meet them all and to realise just how lucky Chris was.”

“It’s great to know the outcomes of patients we take into hospital, especially when it's positive and something as serious as this,” said Louise. “It's nice to know he's used this time after his event to travel enjoying living his life.”

Charlotte said: “I'm used to taking consecutive emergency calls and have never had the pleasure of meeting any of those patients or their family, so to see him alive and standing in front of me laughing with Alice put a whole new perspective on my job.  

“I hope Chris and his family have a fab time celebrating his one-year post-cardiac birthday in April and wish them well on their future adventures.”

Hollie added: “I'm over the moon that we were able to help Chris when he needed us and save his life and I'm really grateful to get to meet him. It’s nice to actually see the outcome of our decisions and work that we do on a daily basis in real life; it just goes to show how precious life actually is. I hope he lives the rest of his life to the fullest and enjoys every moment with Alice.”

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Copyright 2011 North East Ambulance Service Trust

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