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Crews thanked for role in saving life of GP who walked daughter down the aisle

02 November 2017


John, family and crewsExcellent life-saving treatment from bystanders and ambulance crews saw a retired Guildford GP make a stunning recovery from a cardiac arrest to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding just 12 days later.

Dr John Williams, his wife Jane and daughter Helen, made an emotional visit to Guildford Ambulance Station to thank the ambulance crews who helped save his life when he collapsed suddenly on August 20. The visit provided John and his family with a chance to thank the crews in person and fill in a few of the blanks from the day.

The last thing the active 70-year-old remembers is enjoying a Sunday cycle ride on his own in Guildford before waking up in Frimley Park Hospital’s cardiac suite.

“I couldn’t understand why I was there,” he said. “I hadn’t had any of the classic symptoms of any heart problems and actually felt very well but fate was on my side that day.”

Luckily for John a passing driver saw him fall and immediately called 999 where SECAmb Emergency Medical Advisor Hayley Philps took the call who quickly provided instructions and gathered the necessary information from the scene.

A second stroke of good fortune was the arrival of bystander Craig Ryall, a highly-trained helicopter medic with the United Nations from Wales, who was in the town to visit the university.

Craig, who only came across John because he chose to ignore his vehicle’s sat nav instructions, was giving excellent cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) when the first SECAmb crews arrived at the scene.

The vital early CPR kept John alive to allow the ambulance team of paramedic Adam Blackshaw, associate practitioner Sam McGowan; recently arrived Australian paramedic Ellen Kemp and response car paramedic Sam Vickers to administer a shock which restarted his heart.

They were quickly backed up critical care paramedics Kenny O’Driscoll and Nathan Ward, who sedated John for the journey to Frimley Park, where he was quickly given stents to open a completely-blocked coronary artery. The team was also well supported throughout by Operational Team Leader Lesley Jamieson.

“It was a traumatic time for us,” said John’s wife Jane, who usually would have been out riding with John.

“The first we heard of what had happened was when the police called round. They were tremendous rushing us to the hospital to be with John but also we were right in the middle of preparing for Helen’s wedding with my one son already on a flight over from Australia.

“But John made a quite amazing recovery and was in hospital just five days. He was then well enough to walk Helen down the aisle, although I am quite sure who was supporting who.

“We are just so grateful to everyone who came to John’s aid on the day of his accident, from the people who stopped, to the ambulance crews who rushed to his side and of course all the hospital staff. It made the wedding just that little bit extra special for all of us.”

John, a former cardiac registrar, who retired as a family GP five years ago, is now back on his bike and even back working part time with very little neural deficit other than memory loss from the day.

“It was just wonderful to be able to meet these amazing people today,” he said. “They were able to help fill in the blanks from the day and the worst effect I have been suffering is a sore shoulder which took the impact when I fell from my bike.

“The wedding was a wonderful day for us all and the only down side was Jane and I had to cancel a cycling holiday we had planned across Cambodia.”

SECAmb Team Leader Lesley said: “It was fantastic to see John again looking so well, meet Jane, his daughters Helen and Sarah and the grandchildren. It is a big boost for the crews to meet patients who have made a good recovery from such a dramatic collapse in the street. It is part and parcel of our work but we don’t often get the chance to celebrate our successes. On behalf of the team we wish them all the very best for the future.”

The crews certainly enjoyed the cake John and Jane brought filled with the damson jam Jane had been making the day of John’s sudden collapse.

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