A 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

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.”