The initiative comes following a large donation left by a Runcorn gentleman who passed away and asked to see the money spent on life-saving equipment for the area. Latest data shows that 307 cases of cardiac arrest or death were reported in Runcorn over the last two years (January 2020 – December 2022) with a further 1,268 cases of reported chest pain. The ambulance service is now urging organisations and companies in the area to apply for community defibrillators.
A cardiac arrest is when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood around the body, starving the brain of oxygen and causing the patient to fall unconscious and stop breathing. Nationally, there are more than 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests every year in the UK, but fewer than one in 10 people survive. Use of a defibrillator on a patient within the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, gives a 60-70 percent chance of making a full recovery, however, public access defibrillators are used in less than one in 10 of cases.
In John Walker’s case, a 68-year-old tree surgeon from Ashton Hayes in Cheshire West, it was the efforts of his wife Lynn, a local community first responder (CFR), an emergency call-handler and quick-thinking neighbours that revived John’s heart as it went into arrest a total of 12 times. NWAS CFR, Elena Garcia-Estrada shares the events of the day to raise awareness of the importance of community defibrillators.
Elena said: “This really was a miraculous series of events, having the right people in the right place at the right time. I’ve been a CFR for around two years, working a few shifts a week which works really well around my family. On 6 June 2022, I wasn’t on shift and I had taken my CFR kit – which includes a defibrillator – out of the car as I went to pick my daughter up from school. As I was driving home, I received a call from a friend Claire Bolton who had been flagged down in the street after seeing a worried and frantic Lynn, wife of John in need of help following the collapse of her husband. I understand that when Lynn called for help, no one was around aside from Claire who knew the work I did for the ambulance trust.
“With my daughter in the car, I quickly diverted and drove straight to the address with no time to go home and get my kit bag. Arriving at the house, I saw John lying on the floor conscious and able to communicate with me. This isn’t usual of someone in a cardiac arrest. I noticed a 999-call handler was on the phone and had already asked Claire and her husband Martin to source a community defibrillator. This seemed odd to me given John’s conscious state, but I wasn’t aware of John’s previous heart problems and the 999-call handler sensed a concern. After some initial checks, including pulse and breathing rate, John began to decline and it became clear he was having a cardiac arrest. Signs can include vacant eyes, not breathing and loss of colour to the face, often turning a deep purple. Within moments of John arresting, Martin who had earlier gone in search of a defibrillator had managed to locate one and was coming back into the house.
“Defibrillators instruct you when to shock a patient or advise you to perform CPR. I delivered one shock while Martin performed cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), as he was better positioned to give the chest compressions needed. Within 30 seconds John was breathing again, he was back, it was amazing!”
Paramedics arrived at the house to find John conscious and breathing thanks to the efforts of Elena, Martin, Claire and Lynn.
Elena added: “I genuinely don’t think he would have survived without that defibrillator being available. During his journey in the ambulance and arrival at hospital, John went on to arrest 11 more times. Later on, a consultant explained that without the first defibrillator shock to revive him, it would have been highly unlikely that John would have survived.
John’s wife, Lynn Walker said: “When I think back to that day, I often think about what actually happened and what could have happened. For some reason, everyone involved who would usually be in a certain place or doing something routine at that time of day, had changed course at the last minute. That change meant that they were all in the right place at the right time, exactly when John needed them. I say don’t believe in miracles, but this truly was.”
John, who now has an internal defibrillator and pacemaker fitted said: “I feel like a new person, genuinely, I’ve never had so much energy in my life. We all came together after what happened to celebrate with a party, I owe them all so much, they saved my life.”
Rob Hussey, CRT Manager for Cheshire and Merseyside said: “John’s story really helps share the message that community defibrillators save lives, and we are very fortunate to be able to extend the supply of defibrillators to the people of Runcorn, thanks to an incredible donation. It’s been really encouraging to see the interest so far. We will be offering training in how to use the defibrillators, including maintenance so more members of the community have access to life-saving equipment when a cardiac arrest presents itself.”
All defibrillator equipment will be installed externally in weather proof cabinets and must be accessible to the public in an emergency at all times. If you are a business, organisation, community group or school, find out if you are in the catchment area to apply for a defibrillator. Follow the link to the application process: Runcorn Defibrillator Project Applications.
If you already have a defibrillator and would like to register it, complete this form: www.thecircuit.uk
If you have a query regarding defibrillator registration, please contact [email protected]