Miracle cardiac arrest patient meets lifesaving ambulance crews

Monday, 20 January, 2014

Barry and wife Debbie with (left to right) Emergency Care Support Worker Gaylene Doherty, Paramedic Chris Page and Critical Care Paramedic Chris Fudge


A Kent man whose life was saved by South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) clinicians was described by doctors as a medical miracle. 

Lorry driver, Barry Keeler, 59, from Kennington near  Ashford, was working on his father-in-law’s car outside his home when he suffered a cardiac arrest on Sunday, 8 September last year.

His wife Debbie didn’t hesitate in calling 999 when she found her husband collapsed on the floor and unresponsive.

In less than five minutes the first ambulance crew, made up of Critical Care Paramedic (CCP) Chris Fudge and Emergency Care Support Worker (ECSW) Gaylene Doherty, arrived and they started CPR immediately. They were closely followed by their colleagues Paramedic Chris Page and Technician Keith Layton. 

CCP Chris Fudge said: “We carried a Lucas device on board the ambulance which is a piece of equipment that provides chest compressions to patients in cardiac arrest instead of human hands doing this work. Using this device on Barry ensured that he continued to receive chest compressions while all the clinicians were free to carry out further tests and treatments. Importantly, with a Lucas device, we can continue effective chest compressions while en route to the hospital.” Barry’s heart was also shocked with a defibrillator to establish a normal heart rhythm.

It took 45 minutes to resuscitate and to stabilise Barry sufficiently for him to be taken to William Harvey Hospital in Ashford. Debbie said: “The doctors called him a ‘medical miracle’ as they were so impressed with Barry’s recovery given the amount of time needed to resuscitate him and, after coming out of the coma, he was showing no signs of any brain damage whatsoever.”

Current UK survival rates among people who have a cardiac arrest outside hospital remain extremely poor, varying between two and 12 per cent. Every year an estimated 60,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the UK, with about a half of these being treated by emergency medical services.

Barry spent two weeks in hospital and is now well enough to be working again part-time.  He will undergo further cardiac treatment this month and he is expected to have an internal defibrillator fitted.

He said: “Although I’m still a little anxious, the ambulance staff have given me my life back and my outlook for the future is very good. I have adopted a healthier lifestyle and both Debbie and I have stopped smoking - a promise Debbie made with Gaylene at the hospital.  We wanted to try and we have succeeded.”

Barry’s wife was determined to personally thank the staff who saved her husband’s life and they were reunited with the team just before Christmas. “They may think they are just doing a job but to us they are heroes. My family could have been without a dad and granddad if it was not for their persistence in working so hard to bring Barry back. They just did not want to give up on him. They can’t be faulted on anything they did and they often don’t get the recognition that they deserve.”

CCP Chris Fudge added: “It’s really been fantastic to meet with Barry and Debbie again and to see how well they are is humbling to say the least. On behalf of the whole team I wish them all the very best for the future.”

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