A Day of Hope: Capturing Stories to Support Cardiac Arrest Rescuers

Yesterday was an inspiring and deeply moving day as the team behind the new RESCQ pilot project came together to film content that will provide vital support for those who have experienced the life-changing event of responding to a sudden cardiac arrest.

RESCQ, is an innovative initiative led by the Essex Cardiothoracic Centre, Essex and Hearts Air Ambulance, the East of England Ambulance Trust, and us at Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK. The goal is to create a comprehensive website and resource hub for lay responders who have been involved with a cardiac arrest resuscitation event.

While the project is initially focused on the Essex region, the vision is for RESCQ to ultimately become a nationwide service, ensuring that anyone who has the traumatic experience of responding to a cardiac emergency has access to the support they need to process the event and continue moving forward with resilience.

At the heart of RESCQ is the understanding that being present during a resuscitation attempt, particularly as a lay person CPR provider, can be an overwhelming and sometimes traumatic experience. The physical and emotional impacts can linger long after the event itself. By providing information, resources, therapy services, and the ability to connect with others who have been through similar situations, RESCQ aims to help these responders navigate the challenging territory that often follows such a crisis.

The filming day was a testament to the passion and commitment of the entire RESCQ team. Under the clinical leadership of Consultant Cardiologist Dr Tom Keeble and his colleague Dr Uzma Sajjad, a wide range of perspectives and expertise were brought together to capture powerful stories and vital guidance.

Among those sharing their experiences and insights were counsellor Liz Sharpe, cardiac arrest nurse specialist Jean Davis, lifesaver and Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK trustee Stuart Menzies, and myself, representing the charity’s mission. The diversity of voices and roles represented the multifaceted nature of the support RESCQ aims to provide.

The filming took place at two locations: the Essex Cardiothoracic Centre hospital and a non-medical location, carefully chosen settings that allowed for authenticity and vulnerability to shine through. Discussions covered a wide array of topics, from the impact of resuscitation on rescuers, to the emotional rollercoaster that often follows, to coping strategies and self-care practices for those who have witnessed such a traumatic event.

As the cameras rolled, it became evident that RESCQ is more than just a project – it’s a movement driven by empathy, understanding, and a deep commitment to supporting those who put themselves on the line to save lives.

One of the most poignant moments came when Stuart Menzies, a lifesaver himself, shared his own story of responding to a cardiac arrest in a public setting. His recounting of the event, the split-second decisions he had to make, and the weight of knowing that a life hung in the balance, was a powerful reminder of the extraordinary circumstances that RESCQ’s future users will have faced.

Liz Sharpe, the counsellor lending her expertise to the project, brought a gentle wisdom to the discussions, exploring what is a normal response and acknowledging the range of emotions and thought processes that can surface after such a high-stakes situation. Her insights provided a reassuring voice, letting future viewers know that whatever they might be feeling or struggling with is valid, and that support is available.

Meanwhile, Jean Davis, the cardiac rehabilitation nurse, offered a practical yet compassionate perspective, guiding viewers through the post-event journey and the importance of taking and self-care, for the rescuer and those close to them. Her advice was a lifeline, reminding responders that they, too, need to prioritise their own well-being after coming to the aid of others.

Throughout the day, there was a palpable sense of hope and determination – a shared belief that by breaking the silence and providing a safe, supportive space, RESCQ could make a profound difference in the lives of those who have witnessed cardiac arrests firsthand.

As the filming wrapped, there was a collective feeling of having captured something truly special – stories of resilience, guidance from experts, and an unwavering commitment to being there for the unsung heroes who have stepped up in the most dire of circumstances.

While the RESCQ pilot project is still in its early stages, with an anticipated launch later this year, the energy and passion behind it are undeniable. This initiative represents a bold step forward in acknowledging the far-reaching impacts of responding to cardiac emergencies and providing a compassionate, comprehensive support system for those who have put their own lives on hold to save others.

Jemima, emotional support and general overseer

As the footage is edited (thanks Jim and John!) and the website takes shape, the RESCQ team remains driven by the knowledge that their work has the potential to change lives, to help responders heal, and to ensure that no one who has made that ultimate sacrifice of stepping up during a crisis is left to navigate the aftermath alone.

For those of us who were present during the filming, it was a powerful reminder that even in the darkest of moments, when a life hangs in the balance, there are individuals willing to act with courage and selflessness. And now, thanks to RESCQ, those same individuals will have a lifeline of their own – a community of support, understanding, and hope.

The need for this service was highlighted (again), as during the day I took a call from two rescuers who were obviously concerned about the patient, but also had their own personal fallout to deal with. The sooner we have nationwide help for people like them, the better.

If you are a rescuer or have witnessed a cardiac arrest event, do make sure you read our information on it and join our peer support group – Chain of Survival UK – you won’t regret it!

Has performing CPR or witnessing a cardiac arrest had a lasting impact on you?

Share your story and thoughts on providing support for responders in the comments below. Your experiences can help shape initiatives like RESCQ and ensure no one has to navigate the aftermath alone. Join the discussion…

5 thoughts on “A Day of Hope: Capturing Stories to Support Cardiac Arrest Rescuers”

  1. Wonderful work all of you who are involved! This will be such an important asset in the chain of survival.

    It is often those who have witnessed or helped in traumatic events, the unsung heroes, who need support. So much of PTSD relates to what is witnessed.

  2. Well done to the whole team! Basildon CTC holds a special place in many East of England hearts, so where better to film and discuss. Thank you one and all for saving do many lives – and preparing future generations for survival though great education and support ?

  3. This could be such an amazing resource for those who step in to give CPR. I was a passer-by at a car accident in which a driver has suffered a SCA at the wheel of his car. Myself and another passer-by gave CPR until enough paramedics had arrived to take over. Despite our best efforts, the driver didn’t survive. Eighteen months on, I’m still receiving therapy for PTSD which I was diagnosed with about a year ago. I’ve had to find and fund my own support and my own therapist because there was no support available to me. Hopefully projects like the one above can make the aftermath of such situations much easier for those involved.

  4. My husband had a cardiac arrest in his sleep on our sons 17th birthday the 9th of April. I gave cpr.
    I will always be eternally great full he survived. However nothing prepares you for the emotional aftermath. I spent the first week thinking my kids would hate me if he didn’t wake up and I had done it wrong.
    I’ve been left suffering terrible flash backs. I’m getting heart flutters which I think is all down to anxiety.
    It’s weird because the stronger he gets I thought I would get brighter too but I’m not. I feel bad to talk about my feelings to him and my family because we all have been through so much.
    I’ve never been one to think I would need counciling but at the minute I would try anything.
    I feel guilty for feeling so sad when we are the luckiest most unlucky family on earth ❤️‍?

    • Processing experiences of this nature can be incredibly difficult. The emotions, fears, and anxiety you are feeling afterwards are valid and understandable reactions. You displayed immense courage, and your actions saved your husband’s life. However, that does not negate the toll it took on your mental well-being.

      Please do not suffer alone or feel guilty about needing support after what you endured. The trauma of nearly losing your husband, especially on such a significant day, can have a lasting impact. Seeking counselling or joining a peer support group could provide an outlet to process these feelings healthily. You have already demonstrated remarkable strength; getting help does not diminish that. Your family’s well-being, including your own, should be the priority as you all heal together. You have a community behind you – you do not have to shoulder this burden alone.


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