The Day that Starts Like any Other
As 16th October marks European Restart a Heart Day 2017 ; I want to introduce you to one of our trainers, Jennifer Peters. I was chatting to Jennifer about her recent Glasgow launch; when she told me her emotional story about literally restarting a heart. It’s so important to share stories like Jennifer’s as it really could happen to anyone.
Jennifer, what exactly happened on board the aeroplane?
I used to work as cabin crew for a major international airline. A couple of years ago, we were around four hours into a flight from Gatwick to Orlando when a fifty five year old passenger collapsed.
Oh goodness, that must have been so scary.
That’s when your training kicks in – it helps you stay calm. It’s afterwards it hits you.
So what did you do?
After initial assessment it was clear that he was not breathing normally. I started CPR and shouted for the defibrillator (defib). The defib arrived and I attached the pads and began analysing the patient. A shock was advised and I delivered it. CPR started again for two minutes. I analysed again & delivered a second shock. CPR started again for two more minutes. I analysed for the third time and another shock was advised. After delivering the third shock, the gentleman started showing signs of life. His colour came back, arm movement and he even tried to sit up!
Did you have to divert to a hospital?
Yes. I put the gentleman into the recovery position, gave him oxygen and stayed with him on the floor as the aircraft landed. Due to Hypoxia, he was quite disoriented and I struggled to keep him still. He must have been in considerable pain; as it was clear to me that I had broken his sternum during CPR.
We often say in classes that this may happen or a few ribs may be broken but it’s far more important to try and get the heart going again. Did you hear about the gentleman’s recovery in hospital?
Ten days later, I received the news that he was alive and well. Doctors had discovered that he had an undiagnosed heart condition and so he had an internal defib implanted into his chest. I was asked to operate the repatriation flight home so we met again, chatted and I filled in any gaps he may have had. He continues to keep well to this day. One very lucky man.
What an incredibly emotional experience.
It was one of the most emotional and proudest moments of my life. When we landed, all the passengers started a spontaneous applause throughout the aircraft.
What would you say helped you in that high stress situation?
I remained calm and focused during the whole thing. Most of the crew commented in their written feedback to the medical department just how calm I was. That is the training kicking in. The tears came much later when I heard he was fine and cleared to fly home.
We always say in classes how important it is to remain calm
Completely. In situations of high stress, your brain reverts back to what it knows; the training. Trust that training and it will help you through. It’s so important to remember that even though I had some amazing training as cabin crew, I haven’t had any formal medical training. I achieved what would seem the impossible as a First Aider. EVERYONE should have immediate life support (CPR training). You’ll never know the day that starts like any other when you could save a life.
Don’t put it off. Learn CPR and you could save a life just like Jennifer did.
All Mini First Aid courses teach CPR apart from the Early Years classes.
To find out more about European Restart a Heart Day go to https://www.resus.org.uk