How a new St John Ambulance hub helped save a County Durham man’s life

Pictured left to right:  John Sharp, Emergency Transport Attendant St John Ambulance with Keith Richards, driver AAH Pharmaceuticals and Ryan Robson, Ambulance team leader, St John Ambulance
Pictured left to right: John Sharp, Emergency Transport Attendant St John Ambulance with Keith Richards, driver AAH Pharmaceuticals and Ryan Robson, Ambulance team leader, St John Ambulance
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A County Durham man who collapsed after a cardiac arrest at work has been reunited with the St John Ambulance duo who saved him just weeks after they relocated to a new life saving operations hub in Gateshead.

A member of staff from AAH Pharmaceuticals, based opposite the first aid charity’s new hub on Lobley Hill Road, asked for help on the morning of July 29, when driver, Keith Richards, then aged 59, from Stanley was having difficulty breathing.

In the UK, one person suffers a cardiac arrest every two minutes and as many as one in three will die before they reach hospital. But survival rates increase by more than 50 per cent if a defibrillator is used within the first four minutes.

Andrew Trotter, area manager North for St John Ambulance

The station-based ambulance team leader, Ryan Robson, 25, from Sunderland and John Sharp, 34, an emergency transport attendant from Newcastle, immediately jumped to action.

Arriving on scene they could see Keith was very ill, grey, withdrawn, struggling to breathe and sweating. 999 was called immediately.

After a primary survey and medical history assessment, the pair discovered Keith was taking medication for angina, but had no history of an attack. Ryan carried out an ECG as Keith was experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, which quickly escalated to a cardiac arrest when he collapsed.

Ryan and John carried out CPR and then used an AED (automated external defibrillator) to shock Keith’s heart to start again. He was shocked once and regained consciousness and by this time a North East Ambulance Service paramedic had arrived on scene.

Keith, who was a former St John Ambulance Cadet aged 10 years in his home town of Edlington, Doncaster, was transported to hospital where he was operated on and had stents fitted. He was kept in for three days and was then allowed to go home for rest and recuperation.

Married to Susan, Keith, who has a grown up son and daughter from his first marriage, has since celebrated his 60th birthday, enjoyed a Mediterranean cruise and is fully recovered thanks to the first aid intervention of the St John Ambulance team.

Keith Richards said: “I can’t thank the St John Ambulance team enough for their speed, efficiency and expertise when they came to my assistance. I know how lucky I was that their new station was so close. My wife and family and all those I would have left behind also cannot believe how fortunate I have been, I look forward to meeting Ryan and John to give them my thanks for their actions.

“I would also urge everyone to support this outstanding charity in any way they can.”

The trio were recently reunited at a Save a Life September first aid demo held at Matalan in Washington. Part of St John Ambulance’s annual awareness campaign, the free first aid demos aim to teach members of the public vital life saving skills from how to deal with someone who is choking to administering CPR. This year the campaign is backed by comedian and actor Rufus Hound.

Rod Crowther, branch manager, AAH Pharmaceuticals said: “We are so grateful to both Ryan and John for their rapid response to Keith’s plight. Keith couldn’t have been in a better place when this happened, just yards from a new first aid hub opened only weeks before by St John Ambulance. The charity does amazing life saving work in the local and surrounding area and we are very thankful that Keith has made a complete recovery after such a traumatic experience.”

Andrew Trotter, area manager North for St John Ambulance said: “Keith is a living, breathing advert that first aid saves lives. With quick intervention and the professional actions of our ambulance station crew, Keith was treated immediately and we are thankful it was a happy outcome.

“In the UK, one person suffers a cardiac arrest every two minutes and as many as one in three will die before they reach hospital. But survival rates increase by more than 50 per cent if a defibrillator is used within the first four minutes. Access to an AED can truly be the difference between a life lost and life saved,” continued Andrew Trotter.

With around 60,000 people suffering a cardiac arrest outside hospitals each year and survival rates increasing by 50 per cent if early defibrillation is used, St John Ambulance is set to trial a new First Aid at Work training package with an hour’s AED bolt on module in Newcastle (4-6 November) on how to use the life saving equipment.

St John Ambulance trains first aiders to recognise the signs of a heart attack and if the heart stops beating, early defibrillation can help save lives.

The first aid charity recommends that businesses have at least one defibrillator that is accessible to staff. For more information about AEDs or first aid training through St John Ambulance call 0844 770 4800 or visit www.sja.org.uk/training.