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Sussex man reunited with life-saving ambulance crews

11 December 2017

Lee and crewA Sussex man who collapsed suddenly in cardiac arrest has been reunited with the South East Coast Ambulance Service, (SECAmb), crews who helped save his life.

Lee Cottingham, from Lower Dicker, now aged 45, collapsed in farm buildings in Etchingham, East Sussex, in June 2015. He has gone on to make an amazing recovery and returned to work just four months later as a domestic assistant in a nursing home.

The reunion, which took place recently at the Trust’s Polegate Make Ready Centre, came about after a chance encounter at a local event where Lee met Heathfield Community First Responders.

The team was able to put him in touch with Hurst Green Community First Responder, Gary Spray, who was first to arrive at the scene of Lee’s collapse. Gary immediately began life-saving treatment, continuing the CPR administered by one of Lee’s friends, and used a defibrillator to restart his heart.

Gary was joined at the scene by SECAmb Critical Care Paramedic, Tom Strivens, moments before colleagues, Philip Ibrahim, Phillip Webb, Amanda Paine and Suzannah Hulin attended the scene.

Together the team continued to provide life-saving care and stabilised Lee before he was taken to Eastbourne District General Hospital. Lee remained was in hospital for three weeks and was fitted with an internal defibrillator.

He was delighted to meet with the SECAmb team to thank them in person and said: “Words can’t describe how grateful I am to every single person who helped me. I know Gary was unfortunately unable to make the reunion in the end but we’re going to make plans to see each other as soon as possible. I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone.

On the back of the incident with Lee, Hurst Green & District Responders have installed a Public Access Defibrillator in Etchingham and each surrounding village.

CFR Gary said: “The feeling that you have made a difference to somebody’s life and family close to your community makes me proud to be able to hang up my suit from my day job and respond as a CFR. The words that stick with me following speaking to Lee is that he now has two birthdays, with his second being the day we gave him a second chance in life.” 

Lee attended the reunion with fiancée Kaylie, who he’ll marry in August 2018. He added: “It was great to see everyone face-to-face and I know I’m just one of so many people who have been helped by the ambulance service. Thank you to ambulance crews across the whole country. They don’t get enough praise and they do such an amazing job.”

Critical Care Paramedic Tom Strivens said: “Lee has made a great recovery and it was really good to see him upright and looking so well. The outcome was only possible because of everything everyone did. This starts with Lee’s friends following the instructions of the Emergency Medical Advisor over the phone and then Gary’s actions prior to our arrival. It was great team work on the day which gave Lee the best chance of survival following further treatment in hospital. On behalf of everyone involved I’d like to wish him and Kaylie all the best for the future and a fantastic wedding next year.”


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