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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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?”
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.
Was I paranoid? Yes.
Am I still paranoid? Yes.
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
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…
I joined SCA UK in 2016, shortly after my wife suffered an out-of-hospital Sudden Cardiac arrest while we were shopping. Luckily, I was able to step in as I knew CPR. She was diagnosed as idiopathic and has an ICD, and she has since made a good recovery. The support we have both received through SCA UK is immeasurable and encouraged me to participate more and more with the group, whereby I eventually was invited to be a moderator of the group. In 2021 I retired from Police Scotland, where I had served for 30 years, and I am now Resilience Coordinator with a local authority in Scotland. I hope the skills I have developed through my working career and the experience of being a lifesaver and husband to a cardiac arrest survivor will allow me to give something back to SCA UK as a Trustee.