Couple praise ambulance staff for helping in "most stressful time of our lives"

Heather Fenton was gardening when she had a cardiac arrest

A CULLERCOATS couple have praised the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) for their help in what they have described as the most stressful time of their lives. 

In March, Heather Fenton, 59, was gardening when she had a cardiac arrest. 

Heather's wife Janette Hillicks, 56, said: "I'd brought Heather a cup of tea and was heading back into the house when she slumped on the ground. She was blue and non-responsive and wasn't breathing."

Janette had to drag Heather across the garden to lie her on her back. She ran into the house to ring 999 and was talked through how to do CPR by a call handler from NEAS. 

"The call handler was fantastic," Janette said. "She was very calm and encouraging as she talked me through CPR and gave updates on the ambulance's arrival time. Her reassurance made a massive difference and was key to saving Heather's life."

Janette gave Heather CPR for 10 minutes with the help of a neighbour. Call handler Julie Gregg said: "I'm so pleased to hear Heather is doing well, it brought a tear to my eye. It's very kind to be recognised by them."

CPR can double or triple a person's chance of survival. In the last year, NEAS has supported over 17,600 people to do CPR over the phone. 

Once the ambulance crew arrived, Janette was taken to the Freeman Hospital. 

The couple have described the ambulance crew as phenomenal, even staying to speak to Janette while Heather was in surgery. 

Heather was fitted with two stents and had an angioplasty, which widens the arteries that are blocked. Four days after her collapse, she was home. 

Heather is a paediatric nurse who has worked for the NHS for 41 years. She said: "The cup of tea was the last thing I remember before waking up in the Freeman Hospital the next day. Prior to my cardiac arrest, I had no symptoms. 

"Recovery has been slower due to my injuries from the CPR but I'm getting there and waiting to attend a cardiac rehabilitation programme before returning to work."

Claire McGahan and James Rodgerson were the paramedics on the scene. Claire said: "I'm delighted that Heather is home and recovering. Janette did an absolutely fantastic job of CPR which gave Heather the best chance possible."

Heather wanted to pass on her thanks to the staff that helped save her life. "I'm a great advocate for the NHS. It's a fantastic service which is served by dedicated and caring staff to whom I owe my life.

"I would like to say thank you to the ambulance staff for being there for me and for supporting my wife through the most horrendous and stressful time of her life. Without them, I wouldn't have made it to the hospital for the staff there to work their magic. 

"I have had the chance to tell my family, friends and colleagues how much they mean to me and how much I love life!"

Janette added: "It's really hard to get across the impact the ambulance service and the marvellous people who work for it has had on our lives."

For more information on CPR and how to use a defibrillator, go to /get-involved/learning-zone/videos.aspx


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