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Cardiac arrest survivor reunited with life-saving crews

19 November 2016

Possibly one of the worst places to suffer a cardiac arrest could be in a narrow house barge moored at low tide.

Diane SavageBut a remarkable team effort by crews from South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) saw 68-year-old Diane Savage not only resuscitated but well enough to personally thank them at a reunion at Medway Ambulance Station.

Diane and husband David, from Bermondsey, were visiting daughter Johanne and their son-in-law at the barge moored at Castle View Marina in Strood for the weekend on May 15 earlier this year when she suddenly collapsed inside the boat with breathing difficulties.

Diane had suffered a pulmonary embolism caused by a blood clot and first on scene within minutes of the 11am 999 call were Technicians Darren Jensen and Adrian Roberts from a private provider contracted by SECAmb.

They were busy assessing her when Paramedic Michael Fothergill, a Clinical Team Leader, arrived to take over management of the scene.

“Diane was still conscious at this stage but with severe breathing problems,” said Michael. “She was clearly in danger of having a cardiac arrest and with the difficulties of the location I quickly called in our Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) from Ashford.”

More support came from Paramedic Tom Landers and Emergency Care Support Worker Gareth Jordan and within minutes Michael’s fears were realised when Diane went into cardiac arrest.

CPR was started by the crews in the tight conditions while Diane’s family could only watch helplessly from the deck as the crews battled to save her.

Critical Care Paramedic Dave Hawkins arrived to provide advanced life support and, crucially in Diane’s case, was able to thrombolise her with blood thinning drugs giving essential early treatment on the scene.

He was also able to set up a Lucas device which gives consistent automatic chest compressions and releases the rest of the crew to concentrate on other tasks.

“The crews had done an amazing job giving mum CPR and were exhausted,” said Diane’s daughter Johanne.

The crews worked for the best part of an hour just to stabilise Diane and get a return to spontaneous circulation while the HART team set about planning to extricate her from the boat.

Team Leader Al Crawford and his team, Karen Simons, Nick Walker, Sean Simmonds and Alex Clark, had to remove a barge window to enable them to stretcher her, secured by ropes, up a plank to the bank while still monitoring her condition.

Diane was taken to Medway Maritime Hospital where she spent a week mostly in an induced coma to speed recovery.

Medway Clinical Operations Manager Terry Baker said: “It was an extraordinary piece of teamwork involving so many of our sections from the private ambulance providers who support our efforts, to our crews working in difficult conditions, the HART team and Critical Care Paramedic Dave Hawkins providing additional advanced care.”

“I am just so thankful to be able to be here to thank them all,” said Diane. “They saved my life. I don’t remember much after collapsing and then waking up in hospital three days later but Johanne said they all worked so hard to get me back and just wouldn’t give up.”

“I just knew I had to be out by the end of the week to attend my eldest son’s funeral which was on the Monday and they gave me that chance.”

Diane and David are keen motorcyclists and it was a delight for the crews to see her back on the bikes after their visit to Medway Station.

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