Just over a year has passed since I had my sudden cardiac arrest at 21 years old at my desk and life since has been full of ups and downs. Life after a cardiac arrest is one that can only be described as a roller-coaster which people only understand once they have had one.
I received a phone call from someone who worked for my local ambulance trust a day before my ‘1 year anniversary’ asking me whether I would be happy to attend a ‘survivors afternoon’ with the crews that attended my cardiac arrest on the day. I was finally at a point where I knew I’d be strong enough to do something like this as my emotions had been very fragile as expected in the months beforehand. Being given this rare opportunity has been one of the most amazing things I have done and it’s helped me massively with regaining closure on the whole situation.
On the day I met the crew, I arrived at this beautiful manor house in the countryside which really had a calming and warm atmosphere to it which I really needed as I was very nervous! It’s a weird feeling going to an event like this because I was meeting people who all knew me but I had no idea who they actually were and they all had such a massive impact on my life! There were 8 stories on the day where various people had suffered cardiac arrests locally and were attended by the same local ambulance trust, South East Coast Ambulance. All of the survivors that attended were lovely and all had their own individual survival stories which were all miracles.
The first person that I met was a lovely young lady who was the one that took the call when my boss rang 999. I thought it was amazing that she was invited to such an important event because these people work so hard over the phone and without her knowledge, my colleagues wouldn’t have known what to do and I possibly wouldn’t have had the best chance of survival. Often in the NHS people behind the scenes get forgotten about so it was lovely to see her get recognition as well. Gradually after this, the actual crew started to arrive with their families. It was very strange because all of a sudden I was surrounded by 2 paramedics, a critical care paramedic, an emergency care support worker, a technician and 1 of the 4 HEMS (air ambulance) doctors that attended on the day. At that moment I was speechless because all of these amazing people were smiling at me and you could see that they genuinely cared about me and how I had progressed after the shenanigans last year.
After catching up with all of them it was actually really nice just to get to know them as people and I may be biased but they were all so kind and you could tell that they just loved their job and to them, it was something they do every day so they are used to receiving these calls (not common for a 21-year-old), but they are trained to deal with these things, so they weren’t shocked to be sent to one. The day then progressed with us having a rewards ceremony for the crew and watching our ‘Survivors 2016’ video as well as meeting Professor Douglas Chamberlain who revolutionised pre-hospital clinical care back in 1970. He was an amazing man and it was such an honour to meet him!
After an amazing day with these people I realised that that was what I needed to be able to get on with my life and move forward, I wasn’t constantly thinking what if, who were they, what they looked like and silly questions like that which my mind was so curious about. I finally feel like after all this time I was able to put everything behind me and look at this opportunity as a bonus and an incredible thing to have been chosen to attend. I think this is an important thing that cardiac arrest patients and their families should be able to do if they so request to meet the crew because it definitely silenced all questions in my mind as they were more than happy to answer all my questions and my mum’s questions about what they did and whether they thought I would survive afterwards (which they didn’t, shock! haha).
I was incredibly overwhelmed when I got home and had a cry the majority of that evening and the next day, but that’s only to be expected after meeting these people who have given me a second chance at life. I will forever be in awe of these people and how courageous and strong they are in our times of need to make sure we still have a family to go home to at the end of the day.