Less than three months after suffering a cardiac arrest, a Sussex man has met with the Emergency Medical Advisor (EMA) who answered the 999 call made for him by a passer-by who also performed CPR.
Survivor, Peter Williams and his life-saver Jim Burroughs , both from Billingshurst, West Sussex, met with EMA Lauren McCracken, at South East Coast Ambulance Service’s (SECAmb) Emergency Operations Centre in Lewes last week (Thursday 11 August).
Peter, 69, a building surveyor, collapsed on his way to Billingshurst station while running to catch a train to London on 25 May 2016. Jim, who was out on an early morning walk, heard some commotion a distance away and ran to see what was happening.
He found Peter motionless and barely breathing lying in the road and immediately rang 999 for help. What followed was a phone call Jim will never forget and which saved Peter’s life.
Lauren McCracken, who was on duty that day in Lewes, triaged the call as she would normally do but during the call it became clear that Peter had stopped breathing altogether and needed life support in the form of CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
Jim, who thought Peter was beyond help, was encouraged by Lauren to start chest compressions as she instructed and counted a regular ‘1-2-3’ rhythm and urged him not to stop or slow down until the paramedics arrived.
Jim said: “Giving chest compressions was really exhausting but even though I had had a shoulder operation a couple of weeks before I do not remember it being a problem. The adrenaline kicked in and I just kept going while listening to Lauren’s voice and her calm and clear instructions.”
Peter said: “I don’t remember anything about what happened on the day but I am so grateful that Jim was there and took it upon himself to help me. When we met afterwards I learned that Jim nearly gave up on me and he said he may have stopped had it not been for Lauren’s determination and encouragement. We then agreed that we should track down the voice on the phone and thank her personally.”
Both men finally met Lauren at the poignant get together in Lewes. Lauren, who been a call taker for less than a year, said: “I was overwhelmed to see Peter and Jim standing there in front of me. It really has put my job into perspective and is a real reminder that what I and my colleagues do here saves lives. I could not have done it without Jim making the call in the first place so I want to thank him too. When I heard that Peter had written in to make contact, I knew somehow it was about this call, I had not forgotten either of them.”
Whilst in the Emergency Control Room Lauren and her colleagues showed their visitors how incoming 999 calls are triaged and how ambulances are dispatched in response to the particular type of emergency and their proximity to the incident. Peter said: “It’s fascinating to see how the whole operation works, we just don’t know what amazing work goes on behind the scenes seeing those ambulances on the roads.”
Peter was discharged from hospital on 5 June and he was back at work surveying buildings the next day. “Climbing the scaffold was an effort at first,” he said, “but I have now re-joined my veteran walking group. My short-term memory is not as sharp but I am a very lucky man.”
Sudden cardiac arrest claims the lives of thousands of people every year. When a person has a cardiac arrest, survival depends on immediately getting CPR from someone nearby. CPR, especially if performed in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, provides patients with the best chance of survival and recovery.
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