2017 Meet-Up review

Last month we had our third annual meet-up of members of Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK.  From our humble beginnings just over 2 years ago, where we had 13 attend, this year despite a few last minute drop outs we continued our exponential growth and getting on for 40 guests!  I don’t know if there are any UK records for the number of people that have survived a cardiac arrest in one place, but I’m guessing this would be a real contender!

We were upstairs in Green Room which provided a nice private space in the Mulberry Bush pub on the Southbank.  The space had a good feel and with a few activities and some of our new leaflets scattered around the setting looked good!

Despite a slight cooling off from the previous weeks sweltering weather the day was still a pretty warm one, but that meant that there was a great opportunity for people to show off their nice new SCA UK T-Shirts, and the purple and pink was much in evidence.

Despite taking a little detour on the way there Kim & Dean were the first guests to arrive and it was great to see them looking so well, considering that Dean had his SCA whilst driving their car with a full load only last year!

As the afternoon progressed more and more guests turned up and it was great to see lots of new faces mixing and chatting with the regulars as if they had known each other for ever.  I heard some great stories or survival and recovery, but also of others who were struggling with coming to terms with their new life.  Many survivors have little visibly to show apart from a small ICD incision scar, but I was mightily impressed with Ben Parkin’s collection of scars from various heart related issues.

The intrepid abseilers arrived a little later to tell of their heroics and how cool and not scared they all were.  Worryingly, discussions were started on how to scare the pants off the volunteers for next years challenge!

Food and drink were excellent and in plentiful supply although I think Fernando, our dedicated waiter was probably a little disappointed at our level of alcohol consumption, although I’m sure one or two tried to address the balance 😉

Towards the end of the day the numbers thinned out and it meant the temperature in the Green room dropped a few degrees to make it a little more agreeable.  It was also a chance to have some more in-depth conversation and a chance to watch David’s SCA caught live on CCTV.  Something that I wasn’t sure about watching, but I am glad I did as it was very interesting video and it would serve greatly as a general training aid for what to do and not to do in situations like this.  It was a stark reminder of the knife edge we walked upon that day, but it was great to see David looking so well considering what I’d just seen.

All in all it was an excellent day ably hosted by Tabatha and thanks go to her and also to Anne & John of SADS UK for supporting the event.

There was lot’s of great feedback after the event and one of the attendees, Bob Reville summed up the day with a very nice post on his Facebook timeline…

“Well today was the reason I am in London and what a worthwhile and inspiring day it was. I was at a meeting organised by Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK for survivors of SCAs. With the exception of Chris who I met up with yesterday I have never met anyone else who has survived a Sudden Cardiac Arrest so today was very special.
It was nice to meet up with so many lovely people and although I have never met any of them before we all seemed to have a bond already formed by our SCAs which made it very easy for us all to get along.
I was surprised by how young everyone there was and I would guess the average age to be around 40. Most people like myself had no prior health issues and were generally in good to very good health prior to having the SCA and felt nothing beforehand and again like myself the first they knew was waking up from a coma in hospital.
Most people who suffer from an SCA don’t survive or if they do they have quite severe brain damage.
Listening to other people’s stories we all seem to have had an element of luck, either by making a better recovery than most, having someone around who knew what to do and we’re able to perform CPR quickly or as in my case being close to an external defibrillator which helped us to not only survive but survive with only minimal brain damage to enable us to still live a relatively normal life still.
No one no matter how close or well meaning they are can ever really fully understand what we all go through emotionally on a daily basis and it was very comforting to be with people who share this.
The most inspiring thing of the day was seeing how positive everyone one is. I for one have gained a lot from today and hopefully others have too.
Thank you SCA UK for a very remarkable and worthwhile day”

Age at first SCA poll

A recent poll in the facebook group asked “at what age did you have your first sudden cardiac arrest?”  Nearly 100 respondants gave their answers and they can be viewed in the following chart below

From looking at the chart it’s obvious that mid-life is the prime time for a sudden cardiac arrest to strike, although it is rather scarey that 15% of respondants were young people under the age of 30!

Cardiac arrest, ICD and your driving licence

It’s something that crops up quite often in the Facebook group – “Can I drive after my cardiac arrest and do I have to do anything to inform the DVLA, insurance etc“.  One person who was having a number of dealings on this subject was Stuart Menzies, who has a legal background and so I asked him if he could write up his experience of the process…

Cardiac arrest, ICD and your driving licence

As most, if not all reading this will be aware,  suffering a sudden cardiac arrest or/and having an ICD fitted will mean that you have to give up your driving licence for a period of time .

This is a brief guide to provide you with information in relation to voluntarily surrendering your driving licence –  which can be a traumatic process in itself – to re-applying to have your licence returned .

The reason for putting this guide together is that the instructions from DVLA can be complicated to understand and many questions have been asked on the Facebook group. 

Hopefully this guide will assist people who are unsure.  I should emphasise that this is based on my experience in assisting my wife who has unfortunately had to return her licence on two occasions in the last 18 months.

Notification to DVLA

It is a licence holders responsibility to contact DVLA and advise them that, due to medical advice they have been advised to cease driving for a period of time.

Your consultant will advise you how long you have to stop driving for [typically 6 months for those who have experienced a cardiac arrest].

This link provides details of a number of conditions, scenarios and how long you should cease driving for .

Assessing fitness to drive

On occasions you do not need to tell DVLA of your condition , see the following link

Heart failure and driving

Link for forms

Telling the DVLA about a medical condition or disability

Once you have identified the correct form associated with your condition from the link above you should complete it and send it off with your licence. 

You will receive a letter from DVLA confirming receipt of voluntary surrender of your licence. You have to physically send your licence away to DVLA (not a nice thing to do but has to be done)

Re-applying to have your licence returned

Once your advised period of voluntary surrender has elapsed you will be able to re apply again and have your licence returned to you .  Download the relevant form from the link above again.

Once you have mailed this you will receive a letter from DVLA stating that they have written to your consultant with an expected 6 week turn around .  You do not need to do anything further (other than call them back on several occasions as this part of the process takes a long time )

My wife has now been driving for 3 months – no licence back yet despite numerous calls to DVLA

Can you drive without  having your licence returned ?

Firstly – only after your advised time to abstain from driving has elapsed.

DVLA will send a progress update letter stating that they have contacted your consultant .  This letter will also contain a reference to

Section 88 of the Road Traffic Act 1988  which will state :-

There is a provision in law, under this section that MAY allow you to drive while we process your application . You must meet the following criteria

  • You must be confident that your application will not be refused due to any medical condition you declared. 
  • You must have held a valid driving licence and only drive vehicles you are qualified to drive.
  • You must meet any conditions specified on your previous licence
  • You must have sent your fully completed application (re application) to DVLA in the last 12 months
  • Your licence has not been refused or revoked
  • You are not disqualified from holding a licence by a court

If you fulfil these points you can drive again even though your licence has not been returned to you .

DVLA cannot tell you if this section of the law applies to you .  If you decide to drive you MUST meet all the criteria listed in bullet points above .

Section 88 is valid until any of the following apply:-

  • You receive your driving licence back from DVLA
  • You receive a letter saying your licence has been revoked
  • Your application is more than a year old
  • You have since been disqualified by a court since you submitted your application.

You should carry the DVLA letter with you at all times should you feel you meet the criteria and be able to produce it to a Police Officer should you be asked to produce your driving licence . 

Remember this is only if you voluntarily surrendered your licence due to a medical condition .   

This guidance does not cover the circumstances if your licence was revoked.

Informing the insurance company

I can only speak from our own experience on this one and that covers an out of hospital cardiac arrest, resuscitation and ICD fitted.

We contacted the car insurance company.  They advised that there was no need to inform them, if the consultant says you are fit to drive then they are satisfied with this.

I asked them to record our conversation should any challenge come from this conversation .

I tried to keep this guide short however the process can be complicated and I do appreciate that it only covers a few scenarios.