Peter Morrissey was a regular morning swimmer at Merewether baths but on February 10th 2020 he was lucky that the water was too dirty to swim. Instead of a swim he decided to walk along the beach to Dixon Park and back and then did some laps up and down the stairs behind the baths. Peter was in his early 60’s and had never had any symptoms suggestive of heart disease prior to suffering a sudden cardiac arrest and heart attack at the top of the stairs that morning.
The only symptoms Peter experienced was feeling faint at the top of the stairs. He can remember reaching for handrail, but missed and fell the down the first flight.
Paul Davies was running a fitness bootcamp on the beach and answered calls for help. He noted that Peter was unresponsive and that his breathing was abnormal. He knew from prior first aid training that he should start chest compressions. Paul was assisted in the chest compressions by other bystanders and an ambulance was called.
The Newcastle City Council baths attendant also assisted with CPR. Amy DeLore, happened to be exercising nearby, and raced down the stairs to obtain the AED from the Merewether Baths first aid station. Paul had never used an AED but he attached it easily, using the verbal instructions when AED activated, and delivered 2 shocks to Peter that defibrillated his heart. Paramedics arrived soon after and transported Peter to hospital stable, partially awake but a bit confused. After stenting of a blocked coronary artery, Peter has made a full recovery.
Peter is one of the small percentage of people who survive a cardiac arrest and heart attack. Early recognition of his cardiac arrest, prompt chest compressions by brave bystanders and application of a nearby AED saved his life.
Just before Christmas in 2020 Peter Martine , a 57 year old former Westpac Rescue Helicopter Crewman and active Surf Lifesaver, was talking to his wife and daughter when he suddenly slumped into a chair and became unresponsive.
Peter had suffered a sudden cardiac arrest, but quick-thinking wife Teena and daughter Macy recognised that he was not breathing and that he didn’t have a pulse. Macy immediately dialled 000 and Teena lifted Peter from the chair, laid him down and immediately commenced CPR.
Macy advised the 000 operator that CPR had been commenced at which point the 000-operator assisted Teena over the phone by counting out loud to keep up the speed of CPR compressions. The ambulance had arrived just 8 mins after the 000 call was made and Peter received 2 shocks from their defibrillator which successfully put Peter back into a sustainable rhythm. Peter was quickly transferred to hospital where he received cardiac stenting for a blocked coronary artery. He spent a total of 6 days in intensive care, making a full recovery with no brain injury.
Nine weeks after suffering a sudden cardiac arrest Peter returned to work as an Operations Assistant in the Radiology Department at John Hunter Hospital. He is eternally grateful for the quick actions of Teena and Macy in recognising his cardiac arrest and commencing the chest compressions that undoubtedly saved his life. Peter’s story highlights the vital role that bystanders have in the survival outcomes of someone who suffers a sudden cardiac arrest in the community.
Heath and Jenny Schiemer awoke at 0430 the day after Anzac Day in 2019 to sound of abnormal breathing/moaning coming from their son John’s room. They found him face down, eyes rolled back and unresponsive.
John had suffered a sudden cardiac arrest that morning due to a medical condition called Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, a condition which affects the electrical system of the heart. John was unaware he had this condition and was leading an active lifestyle working full time and playing soccer. Quick thinking from John’s parents Jenny and Heath, at a very stressful time led them to start chest compressions immediately and call ‘000’ after they found John. In total, John received 24 mins of CPR from his parents with support from New South Wales Ambulance Service over the phone. On arrival paramedics assisted John’s parents with CPR and in total delivered 7 shocks from the defibrillator resulting in John becoming stable, breathing on his own and being quickly transferred to hospital. John spent a total of 2 weeks in hospital and survived returning to his normal life.
John survived due to the quick thinking from his parents to call ‘000’ and start effective chest compressions. “Losing John wasn’t an option, it’s an absolute miracle” states Jenny. Both Heath and Jenny were First Aid accredited and had previously attended training in CPR. Since that day in 2019 John has made a good recovery, feeling fit, back working full time as a concreter, and playing soccer on the weekends. John’s survivor story highlights the vital role the bystander, in this case Heath and Jenny, has on the outcome of anyone who suffers a sudden cardiac arrest in the community.
Professor David Durrheim was out for an early morning cross country run at 6am on October 20th, 2014, when he collapsed on the path.
David had suffered a cardiac arrest only a few minutes into his morning run. Luckily, a lady out walking found him shortly after, realising he was unresponsive and not breathing, she called out for help. Dr Mark Miller, an Emergency Medicine Specialist, was out walking his dog and responded promptly. Together, they performed hands only CPR for 17 minutes keeping Dr Durrheim alive until paramedics arrived with a defibrillator. He received a total of 12 defibrillator shocks on the way to hospital where he was stabilised, received a cardiac stent for a blocked coronary artery (the “widow maker” artery), and survived without brain injury.
David says “I am living proof of the value of out-of-hospital cardiac compressions. Mark was God’s hands on my chest that morning. I am eternally grateful… The more people who can be trained in cardiac compression, the better off we will all be in Australia.” Seven years on from that day, fit and well and fighting on the front line of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Dr Durrheim is a fantastic example of how early bystander hands-only CPR can make a huge difference to survival.
On the 23rd of March our Heart Safe Team had the pleasure of joining a group of keen HMRI staff members to share some lifesaving CPR pearls. We had a great time with the HMRI team who were so wonderfully engaged with the process and took every opportunity to soak up the skills. Thank you HMRI for having us and thank you for all your lifesaving work!