A special new volunteer for EEAST

Tuesday, 25 January, 2011

Steve, Tabatha and Wendy at the Chelmsford training centre.

A remarkable young woman who stared death in the face has joined the ranks of volunteers who support the ambulance service.

Tabatha McElligot was just 17 when she went into cardiac arrest at her south Essex school in 2009, but thanks to a combination of quick thinking first aid, ambulance care and heart surgery, her life was saved and she's feeling better than ever. And to say thank you to the

community first responder who was just two minutes away from the scene and able to deliver life-saving care, Tabatha has trained to join his group and help save other lives.

Tabatha, now 18, completed her training at the weekend. She said: "When someone saves your life, there's nothing really you can do to pay them back, but this is a start." On July 13 2009, Tabatha was a pupil at Westcliff High School for Girls. While congregating on the school

field for a fire drill, she collapsed and people rushed to her aid. A member of staff performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and a 999 call was made to the East of England

Ambulance Service. Community first responder Steve Hockley, who belongs to the Leigh Group, was working at a nearby primary school and dispatched to the scene while ambulance crews were on their way. "The staff were performing very good CPR, so I asked them to carry on while I prepared the defibrillator," he said. "The machine advised me to shock, which I did, and we shocked a second time too.

"By then, Tabatha was coming around. A rapid response vehicle had arrived and an ambulance soon afterwards and as soon as possible, she was taken to Southend Hopsital." Days later, Tabatha was transferred to a London hospital, where tests revealed she had alcapa, a

hereditary heart condition. That summer, she underwent major heart surgery but within a few months was back studying and now feels better than ever.

Last month, Steve and Tabatha were in contact about first aid training and it was then that Tabatha decided to become a CFR: "I always thought I'd like to learn to do CPR just in case, and we talked about me volunteering to be a first responder. I thought 'why not?'. Steve, 46, and who lives in Benfleet, is over the moon with Tabatha's great recovery: "It's always special to be able to get someone back from a cardiac arrest, and I'm really happy that Tabatha wants to put something back into the community."

Essex community partnership manager Wendy Risdale-Barrs co-ordinates training, administration of community first responder groups for the ambulance service. She said: "I was delighted to encourage Tabatha in making those first few steps towards becoming a responder, and it's been great to see how well she's progressed.

"When I heard about what had happened to her, it made it all the more poignant. It just shows how much early defibrillation can make a difference. Tabatha will be an asset to the first responder scheme in her community and I look forward to working with her."Chief executive Hayden Newton welcomed Tabatha to the CFR scheme: "I'm delighted Tabatha has made a full recovery and that she has made the decision to help others in her community. "Our volunteers provide an invaluable contribution to the work of our emergency care, and it's heartening to know we have such a special volunteer to help boost life-saving work."

Return to news menu