Father-of-two thanks ambulance staff who saved his life after suffering complete heart block

Thursday, 13 April, 2017

John Mitchell pictured with paramedic Claire Reynolds, who was first to arrive on scene.

John and Ann Mitchell with Claire at Newport Ambulance Station.


A FATHER-OF-TWO who suffered a complete heart block while watching the rugby has thanked the ambulance team who saved his life.

John Mitchell from Swansea was watching Wales take on England in the Six Nations at his daughter Victoria’s home in Newport, when he suddenly fell ill in his chair.

One of Victoria’s step children quickly alerted his wife Ann, a former nurse who is related to NHS founder Aneurin Bevan, and she came to his side while her daughter dialled 999.

Paramedic Claire Reynolds arrived in a rapid response car within minutes of receiving the alert and when she arrived at the house found the 72-year-old had a low pulse.

John said: “It was just before the start of the second half and I was very comfortable in this chair, when suddenly I felt as if I was in a washing machine on a fast spin going in both directions.

“There were very vivid red, blues, greens and yellows before my eyes and I remember thinking ‘How do I stop this?’

“I was trying to look at the television to see if the game had started and before I knew where I was I was being attended to by the paramedic.”

In patients with a complete heart block there is no transmission of electrical pulses between the heart’s chambers, causing a range of symptoms, some of which can be potentially life-threatening.

Claire quickly got to work performing an electrocardiogram (ECG) and, after recognising his condition, administered the drug atropine to improve John’s heart rate, as well as reassuring his worried family.

Claire said: “When I arrived John was very grey and clammy so I put him on a monitor as he looked so unwell and his pulse was only 13.

“I reassured the family about what was happening, that he was poorly, but that we were doing everything we could and would take him into hospital as soon as possible.”

She was supported shortly after by ambulance crew members Kim Jenkins and Andrew Parker, who transported John to the Royal Gwent Hospital, while Claire took Ann and Victoria along in her car.

After being admitted on Saturday 11 February, he was taken to a specialist unit, where he underwent an operation to have a pacemaker fitted.

John, who also has a younger daughter called Bethan, was released three days later and is now back at home on the road to recovery.

He has slowly been able to return to carrying out every day activities like walking the family dog with Ann, and expressed his gratitude to the ambulance team for saving his life.

He said: “I really didn’t think I was in such a bad state, but I am so relieved that she (Claire) was able to recognise what was going on and act.

“It couldn’t have worked any better and I think the service deserves more praise.”

Ann, 69, said she would also like to thank the ‘angels’ who came to her husband’s aid.

She said: “Thank you just doesn't cut the mustard, she has given us another chance to reach our golden wedding the year after next.

“I’ve made angels for everyone in the ambulance station, because they are really. I have always been pro-NHS and my grandfather’s second cousin was Aneurin Bevan.”

Claire, who has been with the Welsh Ambulance Service for seven years and is based at Newport Ambulance Station, added: “It can sometimes go one of two ways, but I was hopeful he would respond well.

“By the time we got him into hospital his heart rate had gone up from 13 to 60, which was really good.”

John’s call was coded in the Welsh Ambulance Service’s AMBER category, which is classed as serious but not immediately life-threatening.

Under the Trust’s new Clinical Response Model which was made permanent in February, a range of Ambulance Quality Indicators have been created to measure the clinical outcomes being delivered for such patients.

While there is no specific time-based target for the AMBER category, they still receive the fastest available blue light response and on this occasion a paramedic was on scene in less than six minutes.

In February the service reached 74.6 per cent of RED immediately life-threatening calls, for example where someone has gone into cardiac arrest or stopped breathing, within its target time of eight minutes.

Richard Lee, the Welsh Ambulance Service’s Director of Operations, said: “We are so happy to hear that John is on the mend after what must have been a frightening experience for him and his family.

“For patients with this type of heart condition, it’s important that they receive treatment at a specialist unit within a few hours of the onset of symptoms.

“That John has been able to return home so quickly is a testament to the clinically focused work of Claire, Kim and Andrew, as well as the hardworking staff at the Royal Gwent Hospital, and we would like to wish him all the best for his continued recovery.

“Now that our Clinical Response Model has been made permanent, we are planning to build on our continued strong performance for RED patients, by placing an increased focus on those in the AMBER category to produce more positive outcomes like this.”

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