Sarah's story on Restart a Heart Day

 Tuesday 18 October 2016

European Restart a Heart Day has particular significance for Sarah Howard Stone, PA to the Scottish Ambulance Service’s Medical Director, who is a survivor of a cardiac arrest herself.  She happened to have hers when she was sitting in a meeting in the Services Headquarters in Edinburgh with a group of Paramedics– whilst talking about cardiac arrest strategy. The quick action of those in the meeting in carrying out CPR saved her life. Here Sarah describes what happened.

“You couldn’t make it up”, says Sarah of her ordeal which began as she sat talking through a project she was working in her capacity as Strategy Programme Administrator at the time. “I remember sitting looking at a piece of paper on the wall talking about strategy, when the paper started to resemble cracked glass. The next thing I knew I was on the floor and one of the Paramedics, called Colin Crookston, was pumping my chest up and down and I heard them say the word ‘cardiac arrest’”. It turns out they had performed CPR and used a defibrillator on me to shock my heart into action. I had been technically ‘dead’ for 4 minutes.

“I was on the floor, completely confused. Apparently I said, “What happened there? I feel really funny”, and then the next thing, I’m being told the ambulance crew had arrived.

“I got taken to the Royal Infirmary accompanied by Colin with Dahrlene Tough (Head of Clinical Governance and Patient Safety) following behind who had called the Ambulance, and ridiculous as it sounds given what I had just gone through, my initial feeling was one of embarrassment – I just couldn’t understand why I was sitting with my clothes cut in front of colleagues but they had had to cut my top to carry out the CPR! As soon as I arrived,I was taken to Resuscitation within A&E and then moved to the Coronary Care Unit and got hooked up to an ECG which monitors the heart.

“By this time my partner Di was with me, just in time to witness me have another cardiac arrest and the defibrillator had to be used again. Following more tests, I was diagnosed with Torsade De Pointes which is due to the medical condition called Long QT syndrome (LQTS).

 

“I had an ICD – an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator - fitted on the Friday which is a pacemaker and a defibrillator in one. I was allowed to go home the next day and was off work for almost three months”.

 

Colin Crookston, Consultant Paramedic, was one of the Paramedics who carried out CPR on Sarah.

“One minute Sarah was talking away, the next she sort of lolled back in her chair and made what sounded like a snoring noise.  My colleagues Dahrlene and another Andrew Parker, our Clinical Governance Manager, spent about four minutes doing CPR on Sarah and using the defibrillator until she was revived.

“As Paramedics, we all knew what we needed to do, we have all been at numerous cardiac arrests, but it’s still a nerve-wracking situation, especially when it’s a colleague that you know and like so well”.

Sarah is now back working as the PA to the Medical Director, and believes she was lucky to have her cardiac arrest where she did. As she says,

“I sometimes wonder if I were to have had the same symptoms on a train, or the bus or just out on the street, would anybody have realised? Do we know what the signs are of cardiac arrest? I think people get confused with a heart attack where somebody clutches their chest in agony but this just wasn’t like it at all.  We need as many people as possible to know about cardiac arrest and how to do CPR because until the paramedics get to them, they are the only chance a person has of surviving”.