Mother of two, Patricia Young, knows that without her husband, she wouldn’t be alive today. 3 years ago, Patricia suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. She was clinically dead for 6.5 minutes and had it not been for her husband performing CPR on her until the paramedics arrived, she would have passed away.
Patricia only knows about that night from what others tell her. In fact the days surrounding that time at the start of August 2012 are hazy and she describes them as a bit like déjà vu.
It was the evening of the 8th August and the couple and their two children were preparing to move house the next day. They had spent the evening packing up the remaining boxes and gone to bed late. Suddenly David was woken by the sound of his wife snorting and gasping. He was usually a heavy sleeper but as the house was now empty of furniture, the sounds echoed and woke him. Patricia explains, “At first he thought I was just acting the eijit, trying to wake him. But when he prodded me to tell me to quit it and I didn’t respond, he immediately knew something was wrong.”
Over the next short while, David and his daughters experienced something Patricia wants no other family to go through. Her daughters phoned 999 and the paramedic on the other end of the line was able to instruct David on how to perform CPR on Patricia. It had been a long and tiring day. David had been at work then had spent the evening packing up the house and now he found himself keeping the blood and oxygen flowing round his wife’s body while the ambulance was dispatched. After 421 compressions, he turned to their children and told them, “I’m knackered. I can’t go on.” But with the frantic encouragement of his daughters and the paramedic on the phone, he resumed and at 450 compressions, Patricia took a gasp and came back to life. However, she immediately started to go into a second cardiac arrest. Thankfully at that point the ambulance arrived and the paramedics took over.
But Patricia still wasn’t out of the woods. The ambulance crew told David to bring the girls to the hospital, possibly to say goodbye. They told him to keep talking to her, but there was no response, until he asked her who would walk to dog if she died and at that point, she stuck her arm in the air. Happily, after being in an induced coma for a couple of days, she regained consciousness and tests showed that despite having been clinically dead, she had no brain damage, thanks to David’s relentless CPR.
Later that month, Patricia was fitted with an ICD, an implantable cardioverter defibrillator. This is a pacemaker with a defib attached so that if her heart ever stops again, it will be shocked back into its rhythm.
Cardiologists are still to fully explain what happened to Patricia that night, but basically something went wrong with the rhythm of her heart and it started to go so fast, she went into cardiac arrest.
Patricia explains, “Knowing CPR and having the confidence to use it is very important. Without David I would not have survived. I owe my life to him.”
Patricia now volunteers with Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke at the Dungannon Stroke Scheme. She says, “I may not have had a stroke, but I am still a survivor.I can identify with what it takes to come back and build your life again after a serious health scare. Sometimes that is more difficult than the illness itself but I know that with determination, it can be done. And that is what I tell the people in the group.”
Find out more about the cardiac support services that Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke offer.