NHS 75: “I’ve saved lives for four decades but saving a newborn girl will stay with me forever”
A paramedic who has saved lives for 42 years said the most powerful memory of his career has been resuscitating a newborn girl – and discovering she was in perfect health two years on.
Andy Summers, 61, from Epsom, joined London Ambulance Service in 1980 when he was just 19. He was in his mid-twenties when he was called to help a woman giving birth at home in south west London.
Andy, his crewmate, and an off-duty paramedic who lived nearby delivered the baby girl, but it quickly dawned on them there were no signs of life.
Andy sprang into action to start giving the baby lifesaving chest compressions and inflation breaths.
He said: “I remember it vividly – the minutes went on and on. You could cut the atmosphere in the room with a knife.
“I had my hands on her and saw her lifeless and memories of holding my daughter in my arms after she was born came flooding in.”
After fifteen long minutes of intervention, the baby’s heart was restarted and she finally started crying.
But for two years, Andy wondered whether the cardiac arrest had left the baby with life-changing brain damage.
He said: “I was trying to come to terms with the idea that even if I’d done my best, there could have been significant damage because of the long delay before she took her first breath.”
Then, two years later, Andy was preparing to start a shift and a man knocked on his window and said:
“I recognise you and want to tell you that the girl you saved is perfectly healthy. She lives next to me, is two years old and plays in her garden every day – I’m her godfather.”
Andy instantly recognised the man as being the off duty paramedic who lived near the house where the baby was born.
He said: “I couldn’t believe it. It was a Eureka moment and I felt like a weight had lifted off my shoulders. I was really excited and proud. I got very emotional about it and I still am when I think about this incident.”
This week, Andy reflected on his career in occasion of the NHS’s 75th anniversary.
He recalled treating people from severe injuries during the Brixton Riots in 1981, only a year after joining the Service. He remembered being one of the first ambulance crews to be called to the Paddington rail crash in 1999, which struck him for the eerie silence pervading a scene of devastation.
He said: “A lot of incidents have touched me and there are some major incidents that I’ll never forget.
“But nothing has struck me quite like saving this baby girl. When you work on a major incident, the job is very procedural and systematic. But with this baby girl it was just us crews and the parents. I made a real connection with the baby, her mother, and the partner, and that will stay with me forever.”