Heart attack survivor thanks flying medic who brought him back from brink of death
03 February 2017
A cardiac arrest victim who had been “dead” for almost an hour, has thanked the North Wales flying medic who brought him back to life.
Flintshire factory worker Trevor Fletcher was in a coma and unable to breathe by himself, before Dr John Glen, a consultant anaesthetist on board Wales Air Ambulance and fellow medics managed to revive him.
Wales Air Ambulance flew Trevor to Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in Bodelwyddan, where he was treated in the specialist cardiac centre before being transferred to Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral, to be nearer his family in Birkenhead.
Trevor, who is now back at his job as a cleaner at Toyota Manufacturing UK at Deeside, was saved thanks to outstanding teamwork between emergency care providers, said Dr Glen - who splits his time between Glan Clwyd’s intensive care unit and the Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service Cymru (EMRTS), a team of medics who fly with the Wales Air Ambulance charity.
Dr Glen, who moved from Scotland to join Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) and the flying medics, said: “The patient was given first aid and CPR by a colleague, a defibrillator was on hand, paramedics arrived to give more intensive resuscitation and insert a tube to help him breathe, the helicopter was able to reach him quickly and had an expert on board, and finally he was flown directly a specialist cardiac centre.
“Without all these stages, he probably won’t have made it - if he had, he would be in a bad way, and certainly not up and about in a few weeks, cracking jokes.
“This is a real example of how everybody working together has saved a life - from the workmate giving first aid and mouth to mouth resuscitation as soon as Trevor was found, through to being flown quickly to the right hospital through to the specialist intensive care he received on the ward.
“Once the flying medics were alerted, it took us 15 minutes from our base in Welshpool to fly to Deeside. There we found Trevor was unconscious and being treated by paramedics, who were working hard to keep him breathing.
“Really, it is fair to say that he had been dead for almost an hour when we started to work on him, although the CPR meant that blood was still moving around his body and so keeping his brain going.
“My main job as an anaesthetist means I am an expert in putting in the tubes needed to ensure he could breathe. When a patient does come round after an event like this, they often need a general anaesthetic and we have the means to deliver that at the roadside.
“Once he was stable we flew him to North Wales Cardiac Centre at Glan Clwyd - it wasn’t the closest hospital but it was the one with the equipment needed to save him, the Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) lab.”
The new lab allows consultants treating people who have had a heart attack to immediately take X-rays of the coronary arteries (angiography) and them perform a procedure known as an angioplasty to open any blockages. Previously patients had to be treated in Liverpool or Chester.
Dr Glen added: “I also work on the intensive care unit at Glan Clwyd and so I actually ended up also treating Trevor in hospital.
“It’s great to see him up and about and looking so well - that’s why I do this job.”
Trevor, who has little recollection of the emergency on September 7, travelled with his family from his home in Birkenhead to Welshpool airfield in Powys to meet Dr Glen and thank the helicopter crew for their care.
He said: “I was amazed when I discovered that I had been flown to hospital after I was taken ill at work. Really, the first I knew was waking up in Arrowe Park hospital. I don’t remember being on the helicopter nor in Glan Clwyd, because they kept me unconscious while I was being treated.
“It’s thanks to the doctors on the helicopter, and all the medical staff in the two hospitals, that I am alive now and I am able to go back to work, plus spend time with my family,” added Trevor.
His work-mates in the Unite union branch at Deeside have donated £250 to the Wales Air Ambulance charity.
The 60-year-old, dad to Claire, George, Matthew and Liam, has now quit his 20-a-day smoking habit and is getting fit with special cardiovascular workouts at St Catherine’s Hospital in Birkenhead.
A former engineer at Vauxhall in Ellesmere Port, he has worked at Toyota at Deeside for years and recently switched from the production line to a contract cleaning team.
Trevor explained: “I hadn’t been feeling well for a while, with a cough, and finally went to see my GP, who gave me antibiotics and said there was a problem with my chest. I didn’t realise it at the time, but it was actually pneumonia, which was only confirmed when I was at Glan Clwyd.
“I was at work and said to my colleagues I felt unwell and was going out for some fresh air. When I didn’t come back they went to find me - and a security guard found me unconscious. I was given CPR by a first-aider and then the defibrillator machine was used.
“Toyota at Deeside has 3 defibrillators onsite, which can be used by all trained first aiders and security staff.
“It seems my partner Lynne and my daughter had phone calls to go to the hospital because I’d had a suspected heart attack.
“My sisters Linda Harrington and Sue Pipe were also able to get to the hospital to see me. They have been long-time supporters of the Wales Air Ambulance charity, and so they were very happy that their donations have been put to direct use for a family member.
“I am now determined to get to fitness as there’s still so much I want to do. I am back at work part-time, and I know I will have to take it in stages.
“I simply can’t thank everybody so much for saving me.”
EMRTS Cymru is a team of flying medics working with the WAA Charity helicopters to provide pioneering emergency medical care across Wales.
The service, which effectively takes the emergency room to the patient, sees Welsh Government-funded NHS consultants deliver innovative emergency treatments previously not available outside of a hospital environment.
Toyota Manufacturing UK has previously donated over £28,000 to the WAA Charity, with another donation due to be made this year.