A man who survived a massive cardiac arrest says he owes his life to the rapid arrival of a paramedic from the East of England Ambulance Trust.
Richard Coxall was in his living room at home with his wife Debbie in Eastern Avenue, Haverhill on September 22 last year when he began having pains in his left arm and the back of his neck.
At midday, with his situation swiftly worsening, Debbie phoned 999 and within five minutes a rapid response paramedic had arrived and began giving CPR.
Mr Coxall, the site manager at Castle Manor Academy, had to have his heart shocked three times to restart it and at one point was clinically dead.
After his heart was restarted an ambulance arrived with two more paramedics, plus an air ambulance with an on-board doctor who sedated him for the journey to Papworth Hospital.
The cardiac arrest resulted in his brain being starved of oxygen for 14 minutes, causing an hypoxic brain injury that had long-lasting repercussions for the 50-year-old.
After the oxygen deprivation Mr Coxall was told he had the lowest possible rating given to people with brain injuries, one which carries a dismal prognosis.
Another chilling consideration is that brain death and permanent death start to occur in just four to six minutes after a cardiac arrest.
Mr Coxall said he wanted to offer the ambulance service praise for the treatment it gave him after seeing the story in last week’s Echo in which Michaela Carney told how she waited for three hours for an ambulance to arrive outside Haverhill Library, where was suffering severe back spasms.
Ms Carney, who had undergone a back operation a few weeks previously, had been unable to move and had to be held upright throughout those three hours.
Mr Coxall said: “Although I sympathise with Ms Carney, the ambulance service has no choice but to prioritise life threatening cases like mine.
“If they had not arrived so quickly it is highly unlikely I would have survived, or I could have been left with permanent brain damage due to lack of oxygen for a longer period of time, which would have placed more of a burden on NHS resources.
“With cardiac arrest patients every minute lost due to ambulances not turning up results in an 8 per cent reduction in survival rate - therefore every minute is crucial.”
Mr Coxall spent five weeks in Papworth, the first two weeks in critical care being moved to a ward.
He has no memory of his first three weeks and had to learn all over again how to walk, wash , dress, shave, feed himself, read, write and have social skills.
He returned to work after seven months off, gradually building up his working hours, which now stand at six per day, almost full-time again.
The support of staff at Icanho in Stowmarket - specialists in brain injury rehabilitation - not to mention family and friends, has been vital.
Mr Coxall said: “I would like to say a big thank you to Kevin Baldry at Icanho for massively improving my computer skills.
“Kevin has gone above and beyond his duties and helped me learn how to do various things on the computer, which I could not have done before.”
Although fully recognising the distress that Ms Carney’s situation would have caused her, Mr Coxall added: “The call handlers have to make difficult choices all the time and I hope Michaela can appreciate this.”
Mr Coxall also emphasised how important it is for people not to misuse the ambulance service, saying: “Somebody ringing for an ambulance unnecessarily could cause vital minutes to be lost for someone having a cardiac arrest.
“It could make the difference between somebody recovering normally or being permanently brain damaged.”