Mementoes, keepsakes & achievements

Post by Ingrid

So it seems that since my SCA in 2016 I have collected a number of mementoes and keepsakes from that day and the days following.

I have all the usual stuff such as hospital wrist bands (and a couple of hospital blankets) and some photographs of myself and of ‘my spot’ (scar on my chest where my ICD was inserted) but I also have a few other things that are unique to me.

One of which is a receipt for a KFC that I collected as a drive through 10 minutes before I collapsed, but never ate. I was on my way to visit a friend and collapsed at the end of her driveway and only the birds will know how tasty my zinger tower burger was that day!!!

Another friend even gave me her hospital parking receipt!

I have a large collection of get well cards and drawings from my kids and nephews, flat balloons and teddy bears, pandora bracelet charm… the list goes on.

Some of these were gifts from friends and relatives and I will treasure them forever.

It amazes me, the things we keep to remind us about significant things that happen to us. Having asked some other survivors what they have collected I was amused by the variety of ‘trinkets’ accumulated, some of these include….

  • Rosary beads
  • A black eye
  • Train ticket – HA !
  • Defib pads
  • DIY sos rebuild tv programme appearance
  • A scar on an eyeball
  • ECG printouts
  • Defib pad burn scars
  • Hospital socks (not surgical stocking variety)
  • Clothing items cut up the front (some have even been framed!)
  • Scars and mended broken bones
  • ICD’s
  • A life a little bit different than before
  • Tattoos
  • BBC Helicopter Heroes documentary appearance
  • A diagnosis of something unknown about pre SCA

Following on from the trauma collections there are some things we have achieved as a group, one of which is having blogs published in a book entitled ‘Life After Cardiac Arrest: Writings from Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK’ (available on Amazon at a bargain price and well worth a read).

Some of the group have abseiled and climbed buildings.

There have been meetups and gatherings, TV and media appearances for different reasons and much more!

Some of us even have a post-SCA memento of being a Guinness World Record holder – how cool is that! How exciting is it to be part of something so amazing and the memories of that day will stay with the participants forever.

Go us!!

Have you got any special items you saved from that fateful day? or have done something memorable since? If so please do let us know.

Thanks Bob!

I first met Bob a couple of years ago when he came along to our 2017 London meet-up. He was quite nervous as he hadn’t been in a good place since his SCA and hadn’t met any other survivors in the 4 years since it had happened.

It was a brave move to travel down solo from his native Sheffield especially as life post SCA had left him with a lot of anxiety. He needn’t of worried though as we’re a friendly lot as he found out and then posted about…

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

He followed this up with another post a month later and a stand out quote is the following…

…since spending the afternoon of June 24th in a room full of people in the same situation as me I have not had a single [anxiety] attack. I have certainly felt a lot better about things since that day, a few people have even commented that I seem more like my old self than I have done for a long time so it seems I am now seeing longer-term benefits from the meet up as well as short term ones…

At the meet up I chatted with Bob and listened to his story and mentioned that his would make a good blog post for the SCA UK website. A couple of months later while I was on my holiday I got an email from Bob, and ominously with an attachment. He’d gotten around to writing his story, but not the few hundred words that most people write – a hefty 10,000-word tomb! He later told me he locked himself away and bashed out the whole piece in pretty much one go. I read it there and then and it was certainly an emotional read. You can read it on our blog at “A Fridge Too Far“.

I knew it was a good piece as it touched on so many subjects common to SCA survivors, but also a few that many would not dare to air in public. It would form one of the cornerstones of the SCA UK Life After Cardiac Arrest Book. The piece was later abridged and published in the Sheffield Telegraph.

Bobs abridged story in the Sheffield Telegraph

Since then it seems he’s also become a bit of a local celebrity as he’s had several appearances on Radio Sheffield including an afternoon slot where he had quite an in-depth interview. Recently he also helped SADS UK out by telling his story at the EMAS CFR conference.

Bob with fellow survivors Charlotte Pickwick and Chris Solomons at the EMAS CFR conference

Bob’s posts in our Facebook group are usually quite varied and positive and last year he undertook a bit of a road trip visiting various parts of the country, including a bit of AED spotting.

Bobs most recent foray into the limelight is down to a event he organised for his recent 50th birthday. Not one for a quite night in, Bob put on a gig with a band playing some of the songs close to his heart. However, this gig was not only a birthday treat but he selflessly also made it a charity night and all monies raised were to go to SCA UK!

Bob’s birthday bash

By all accounts the evening was a great success, both in terms of entertainment and raising money. Earlier this week Bob dropped me a message to say he’d put over £600 into our account and that more would be coming!

So, the point of this post was to say “Thanks Bob”, for raising money* for our cause, but on reflection, I think I want to say “Thanks Bob” for all of your contributions – it’s been a real pleasure in many ways to have you in our select group.

*If you want to help our cause please see this page.

Are you okay? A sort of Homecoming Part 2

I write this as a husband of a cardiac arrest survivor and a lifesaver. I make no apologies for trying to focus on myself and how my wife’s SCA had an effect on me. There have been many stories shared from survivors but very few from husbands, wife’s, relatives or friends of SCA survivors who were actually present during the event and carried out lifesaving actions. I hope that by writing this I can assist those people with their recovery. This is the second part of episode 2. If you have not done so, it may be better to read the first 3 parts episode 1 part 1,  episode 1 part 2 and episode 2 part 1 to provide a background.

Thank you, these don’t get any easier to write, nearly 3 years on.

Why?

As time progressed one thing I was struggling with was the question Why?

Was anyone else like this?

I eventually tracked down a young woman through the BHF who had gone through what Susan had. I made contact with the woman, a young woman, similar age as our son . She was a fantastic help to me and in turn to Susan, sharing what she had gone through and how she recovered. The mental anxiety of having an ICD and being diagnosed idiopathic. This confirmed to me the benefits I personally felt from speaking with other people, sharing our story and trying to understand.

Remember, this was only 2016. We thought there were very few people out there like us, only 8% survive and Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK was still in it’s infancy. Once I found it and joined we quickly realised we were not alone, it was so comforting for me to realise that and to engage with like minded people and I really see the benefit of its existence to this day.

Rachel

Another hurdle was for Susan to meet her lifesaving team. We have never spoken with the ambulance crews or with the call taker at ambulance control, but as you may recall from the previous writings, I was assisted in carrying out CPR on Susan by an off duty colleague, Rachel.

Me with Rachel

She is my hero and will remain so for ever more. We kept Rachel updated with Susan’s progress and during early March arranged for Rachel to come and meet Susan, alive this time.

I knew Rachel well from work but she had never met Susan in a decent state!! Rachel arrived at our house, we were all very nervous. I announced us into our living room as your lifesaving team. It was a very emotional moment.

I can’t to this day find the words to express my gratitude to Rachel. She stopped and helped me during the worst crisis anyone could have been involved in. She gave Susan her oxygen and in turn life.

How can you thank someone for that?

You cannot.

Rachel’s reaction, other than emotional was rather amusing. After settling down, she said to Susan she realised that she wasn’t keen on a woman doing mouth to mouth on her, she couldn’t get Susan’s mouth open properly so carried out rescue breaths up her nose. That made us laugh.

Are you OK?

Susan on her birthday, 8 weeks post SCA

We had Susan’s birthday in April along with our twin daughters, another emotional affair. It was always going to be the case and to this day every birthday, every Christmas, every reason to celebrate is given our full attention. Never take anything or anyone for granted as it can be taken away from you without a moments thought.

Was I still waking up at night and checking Susan was alive – YES!

“Are you okay?”

Constantly, “YES.”

Indeed.

On one occasion I popped out for half an hour. When I returned I could not find Susan at all.

Had she collapsed?

Where was she?

What state would I find her?

I went into our outside garage and saw her legs sticking out of the chest freezer! She had collapsed in the freezer. I ran to her shouting, she pulled herself out and laughed at me, having decided to clean the freezer out when I was away.

Not funny.

Was I paranoid? Yes.

Am I still paranoid? Yes.

Molly

Molly our therapet

The next big step on our recovery was to add to our family. Susan didn’t enjoy being home alone. I didn’t enjoy her being home alone. What better way to rescue that situation than to add a dog to our family? We looked about but very quickly found her, our therapet, Molly the cockapoo who has been worth her weight in gold . On 18th April 2016 we brought Molly home. She has helped us both so much with her presence, company and ability to lighten up even the most darkest of times. I can’t emphasise enough how Molly helped our recovery and continues to do so to this day.

Now into May, things were good. Susan started a phased return to work. We were lucky as she works in a school in our street so losing her licence did not effect her job, this is clearly not the case for the vast majority of other survivors. Her phased return worked well, with her working half days to start with, building up hours gradually each week and after 5 weeks she was back up to full time, just in time for the school holidays starting.

Things were good, apart from the fatigue, Susan felt good considering all she had been through. She had no memory at all of her SCA so as far as she was concerned, it happened to someone else. I wish I could say the same.

Through my job and experience as a police officer I learn to deal with or should I say manage trauma. This was different and takes a great deal of mental strength to park away. I call it my bottom drawer. A place I put all the nasty things I have seen and heard. Sometimes I open my drawer as it becomes to full, I speak about what is there, and then I close it again. It’s my own way of dealing with trauma.

Life was good

Us at the airport, 4 months post SCA, we were very nervous

Into June, remember that cancelled holiday to Lanzarote? Well, we plucked up the courage and went for it . We were nervous wrecks at the airport. I had all the Drs and hospitals identified in the island. I knew how to say what had occurred in Spanish. I knew where to go for help.

We went for a week, Susan took care of her ICD scar in the sun, and showed it off proudly. We arrived home, having had a couple of wobbles but all in all we had a great holiday.

Nothing was going wrong.

After all we had been through, life was good.

In August, Susan had her driving licence returned . A huge moment for her in her recovery. It was amazing to see her heading back out in the car again. Getting her independence and life back.

All was good.

But it was not to last…