“Get stuck in!” – Paramedic advice to the public

Wendy CunninghamCardiac Arrest survivor, Nurse Wendy Cunningham, visited ambulance service headquarters in November to meet the staff who helped saved her life following her arrest in Templemore Swimming pool in Belfast.

Describing them as her “heroes”, Wendy wanted to personally say thanks for everything they did that night. Sean Martin was the Rapid Response Paramedic who arrived at the scene to find CPR being performed by one of Wendy’s friends and a pool attendant who, in a very fortuitous coincidence, had actually been taught CPR by Wendy herself.

While they continued CPR, Sean placed the pads on Wendy to discover she was in the shockable rhythm of VF. After one shock, a pulse returned but Wendy was not yet out of the woods as she had not yet started breathing again. The A&E crew, Alison McKinley and Eugene Jordan had arrived to assist just as Wendy’s pulse disappeared again and she needed another shock to restore it.

Wendy was then transferred to the ambulance and brought to the RVH where a team was waiting for her. She spent some time in the hospital and has since returned to a fully active life.

Sean Martin, RRV Paramedic, believes that the key to Wendy’s survival was the early CPR that was given by Wendy’s friends. He would encourage everyone to learn how to do CPR to keep the blood flowing to the brain while the Paramedics make their way to the scene. His message, to anyone who might be a bit hesitant about doing chest compressions, is very simple “Get stuck in – do the chest compressions and you might save a life!”

Watch Wendy’s meeting with her heroes.

“I thought he was going to kill me!” – Paramedic’s account of an assault on her by a patient.

Heather SharpeIn 2012, Rapid Response Paramedic, Heather Sharpe, received details of an emergency call in Newtownabbey. Everything about the call was routine until the moment she arrived at the house. There, her “patient” took it upon himself to physically assault the very person who had, on trust, come into his house to help him in his hour of need.

In the course of the assault, he ripped Heathers uniform and attempted to remove, from her, the only means of communication which she had with ambulance control – her radio and mic. In recalling the incident, Heather recounts how she was fearful for her life and really believed that he was going to kill her. As she tried to get away he wrestled with her from the top to the bottom of the stairs. When she got to the bottom she saw the chance to make her escape through the front door and she took it.

Once outside, she fixed her clothing as best she could, given that it had been ripped. But then she realised that in the house was the wife of the man who had just assaulted her. She began to fear for that lady’s safety and, unbelievably, went back in to see if she could get her out. When asked what would make a Paramedic do that, knowing the possible dangers that lay inside, her answer was simple – “It’s what makes a Paramedic” was all she said.

Help arrived in the form of another ambulance crew and the patient was taken to hospital. Heather was left trying, somehow, to make sense of what had just happened. She stood in that space between the house and her car, looking at each in turn, wondering how she had come to be in this position. Her ambulance shirt was ripped, so she put her coat on, to preserve a degree of modesty, lifted her Paramedic bag and got into her car to drive to the nearest ambulance station. There she was safe among her friends – safe enough to allow her to let her emotions out and she cried!

This is an account of one of approximately 250 assaults per year on ambulance staff. Heather, very bravely, has put her account of this story on film.