Having survived a cardiac arrest nine years ago, I have learned many things about the triumphs and hurdles of recovery. Among the surprises I encountered during this journey was the profound psychological impact of my near-death experience. While my memory of the cardiac arrest is nonexistent, I was haunted by the blaring sirens and the flashing blue lights—especially those on ambulances. They were vivid reminders of how perilously close I had come to losing everything and how dependent I was on the people who saved my life.
For a considerable period, I grappled with a certain anxiety and restlessness whenever the sound or sight of an emergency vehicle reached my ears or eyes. I couldn’t help but wonder if they were rushing to rescue someone like me or if their arrival was too late. A mix of gratitude, guilt, fear, and sorrow coursed through me, creating an emotional whirlwind that felt impossible to tame.
However, one day, everything changed.
About six months after my event, I contacted my local ambulance trust to try and unravel the details of that fateful day. They graciously provided me with a record of their system, which shed light on the call and subsequent actions taken. Armed with this information, I noticed the specific ambulance that transported the crew primarily responsible for my survival. In my eyes, they were extraordinary individuals deserving of my utmost gratitude, and I yearned to express my thanks to them in some way.
I continued my investigations, and thanks to the patient liaison team at Essex & Herts Air Ambulance, I had the immense pleasure of meeting my saviours several months later. It proved to be an emotional and uplifting experience for which I will forever be grateful, but that is another story.
After discovering the ambulance number, my somewhat befuddled brain decided to transform my anxiety into a delightful game which I have come to call “Blue Light Bingo.” Whenever an ambulance crossed my path, I would quickly scan for the vehicle’s identity number hoping it to correspond to the one I sought. This shift turned my apprehension into a playful challenge, granting me a renewed sense of purpose and freeing me from the shackles of stress.
Given that my sons attended schools near a local hospital (not the one where I had been taken), I had countless opportunities to spot ambulances when I did the school run. I diligently marked off numerous numbers on my imaginary bingo card (and promptly forgot most of them), yet the elusive “my” ambulance always evaded me.
Echo Alpha 436
That is until fate intervened and rearranged the course of events. A sense of surprise washed over me when I scrolled over a photograph published in our support group. This picture, posted by Charlie Dickens, made me smile as it depicted her standing amidst her saviours, radiating profound gratitude and resilience, with “my” ambulance as the backdrop.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. Finally, after all this time, I had glimpsed “my” ambulance, albeit captured within the confines of a photograph. A surge of happiness and relief washed over me, accompanied by a twinge of envy for Charlie’s achievement—she had met “my” ambulance!
Yet, amidst these emotions, I also felt a deep sense of closure. Witnessing that photograph made me realise that I no longer needed to relentlessly pursue “my” ambulance. I had already expressed my thanks countless times within the recesses of my heart, and they were well aware of their profound impact on my life.
As time steadily passed, ambulances gradually faded into the background of my perception. They no longer garnered any more attention from me than they would from the average person. Whether my little game played a role in this transformation, I cannot definitively say. However, that psychological twitch that once plagued me seems to have been alleviated. I have learned to accept what transpired in my life and wholeheartedly appreciate the blessings that have since come my way.
Recovering from a cardiac arrest is indeed possible, but it is a process that demands time and patience. It can involve numerous ups and downs, twists and turns, and emotional fluctuations. However, amidst the challenges, hope always persists, and support is never far away. And sometimes, unexpectedly, we stumble upon our own version of blue light bingo—a small yet meaningful diversion that reminds us of the profound strength and resilience that resides within us all.
After our first meet-up in February 2015, I realised I was not alone. It was the first time since my cardiac arrest the previous year that I had spoken face-to-face with someone who had experienced what I had. This was also true for my wife, who also happened to be my lifesaver. From that meet-up, the idea of SCA UK was born. Since then, we have achieved a considerable amount, primarily providing information, resources and support to others in a similar situation but also raising the profile of survivorship and the need for better post-discharge care. We are starting to get traction in this, and with the formation of the charity, I genuinely believe we have a bright future ahead and will make a significant difference in the lives of many who join our ranks.