When Rob Tait suffered a cardiac arrest in October 2006, it was the joint response of his family and London Ambulance Service staff that managed to save his life.
Rob, 62 was at home when he began breathing irregularly and collapsed. Luckily, his children, Holly aged 23 and Joel aged 20 were also at home and immediately dialled 999 and followed the call-taker’s advice in how to give cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
CPR is a simple, life-saving procedure which involves giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and chest compressions. It buys time until an ambulance arrives and can double a person’s chance of survival.
Joel said: “I did chest compressions for nine minutes—on TV they only do it for five seconds. I was on my knees and it was exhausting but I think if you are ever in that situation where you have to help your own father, or anyone, you would. If he was going to die, at least I was trying to help and he wouldn’t be by himself.”
Around three-quarters of cardiac arrests occur in the home which means that in the majority of cases you could be expected to perform CPR on a loved one.
Emergency medical technician Charlie McCourt was first to arrive on scene and took over the CPR. He was quickly joined by ambulance crew Cheryl Prince and Caroline Williams. They determined that Rob needed to be shocked with the defibrillator and after four attempts they managed to get a good pulse.
Commenting on the incident, Paramedic Caroline said: “If Rob’s children hadn’t acted so quickly to start the resuscitation process it could have been a totally different story. Joel was did a fantastic job in carrying out CPR before we arrived, it must have been an exhausting and emotional time but this undoubtedly helped to save his father’s life.”
Rob and his family recently met with London Ambulance Service staff at Islington ambulance station to thank them for the treatment they provided. Rob said: “My family did everything they could for me but I wouldn’t be here without the help of the professionals. I can’t thank Charlie, Cheryl and Caroline enough.”
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Notes to editors
What is a cardiac arrest?
- A cardiac arrest occurs when a person’s heart stops. Someone in cardiac arrest will lose consciousness, will not be breathing and will have no signs of circulation.
- Many people who suffer a heart attack—when there is a blockage to one of the arteries supplying the heart muscle—will go on to suffer a cardiac arrest.
- The London Ambulance Service attends around 10,000 calls to cardiac arrests each year.
- Contrary to public perception, survival rates for people suffering a cardiac arrest outside of hospital are low. In London, the survival rate is 8.6 per cent (figures for 2004–05) up from 5 per cent in 2001–2002. In Seattle where levels of bystander CPR are high, the survival rate is 38 per cent.
- Survival rates are calculated using the universally recognised ‘Utstein template’.
- London’s 8.6 per cent survival rate is based on the number of patients discharged alive from hospital whose cardiac arrest was a result of a ‘heart cause’ (the heart going wrong), otherwise known as ‘cardiac aetiology’, resuscitation was given by the ambulance crew, the arrest was witnessed by a bystander and if the person had an initial rhythm of ventricular fibrillation (VF—the heart quivers).
What can you do?
The London Ambulance Service advises callers to take the following five steps as soon as possible to give people the best possible chance of survival:
- Early recognition—recognising that someone may be suffering a heart attack or be in cardiac arrest, i.e. knowing the signs and symptoms.
- Early access—phoning 999 for an ambulance.
- Early basic life-support—giving CPR.
- Early defibrillation—electric shock to the heart.
- Early advanced life-support—appropriate treatment by the ambulance response.
What is CPR?
CPR—cardio-pulmonary resuscitation—is a simple, life-saving procedure which can double a person’s chance of survival when they are in cardiac arrest.
It involves giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and chest compressions. CPR can double a person’s chance of survival—it buys time. For every minute’s delay in getting to a patient in cardiac arrest, the chances of successful resuscitation reduce by 10 per cent. People can help by carrying out CPR and calling an ambulance quickly.
When the London Ambulance Service receives a 999 call, it will prioritise it using the AMPDS (Advanced Medical Priority Dispatch System) protocol. Patients identified as having a heart attack or cardiac arrest will receive a priority response (Category A—life-threatening) and the nearest ambulance, along with the nearest rapid response unit, i.e. car or motor-cycle, will be dispatched to them. While the ambulance response is on its way, the call-taker will talk the caller through how to give CPR.
What is a defibrillator?
Every London Ambulance Service vehicle (ambulances, fast response cars, motorcycles and bicycles) is equipped with a defibrillator. These are ‘shock boxes’ that are used to shock the heart when in ventricular fibrillation so that a normal heart rhythm can be restored. An electric shock from a defibrillator, given by trained staff through the chest—is crucial to survival. For every minute’s delay in getting to a patient in cardiac arrest, the chances of defibrillation being successful is reduced by 10 per cent.
London Ambulance Service statistics
- Around three-quarters of cardiac arrests occur in the home (this includes private homes, nursing homes, relatives homes).
- Just under half of cardiac arrests are witnessed by bystanders.
- Bystanders give CPR in less than a third of all cardiac arrests.
- The average age of people who suffer a cardiac arrest in London is 67 years old.
- in December
- in the morning between the hours of 8am and 12pm
- on a Saturday
- CPR is quick and easy to learn—and it may save a life.
- The London Ambulance Service provides free CPR training to the public, and to businesses at a cost.
People who are interested in learning CPR and how to save a life in a medical emergency should call Community Resuscitation Training on 020 7463 3120 or email [email protected].
For further information about the London Ambulance Service or this news release please contact the communications department on 020 7921 5113.