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Air ambulance heart attack patient supports national awareness day

Former air ambulance patient, Mark Metcalfe, is raising the awareness of the importance of early medical interventions this Restart a Heart Day (16 October) after suffering a heart attack when he collapsed at home in Bilsthorpe, Newark in December 2020.

The Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland Air Ambulance (DLRAA) was deployed to join colleagues from the Lincolnshire & Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance (LNAA) and East Midlands Ambulance Service – who were first at the scene – to provide a critical care doctor to give Mark the very best chance of survival.

On the morning of the incident, the LNAA helicopter crew didn’t include a doctor – which is not uncommon across air ambulances.

It took the DLRAA helicopter just 14 minutes to fly from their base at East Midlands Airport to landing near the bungalow where Mark was being treated by the other air ambulance crew and a team from East Midlands Ambulance Service.

Mark’s partner Carol Moore had called the emergency services when she discovered Mark lying unconscious on the bathroom floor.

She says: “There was a loud bang that sounded like an explosion. The dog rushed to the bathroom door and just stood there. I shouted to Mark but there was no reply. He had collapsed behind the door, but I managed to barge my way in. Mark’s breathing was noisy like a “death rattle” and he was in the foetal position. There was blood everywhere from where he had bashed his nose and cheek on a metal towel rail as he fell to the floor. It was a mess.”

“I dialled 999 and went into robot mode. I have been trained and knew how to do CPR. I dragged Mark onto his back and did chest compressions frantically for about ten minutes, which felt like a lifetime. I was hysterical but I kept going and eventually I could hear sirens in the distance.”

“I was very relieved when the emergency services arrived, and I got out of their way. I could hear them shocking Mark. It was unbelievable, a living nightmare. I didn’t know if I was going to see him alive again.”

The land ambulance paramedics and LNAA crew worked together for over an hour until Mark’s pulse rate returned.

The clinicians already at scene, knew Marks best chance of recovery was to be anaesthetised before being transferred to the nearest specialist cardiology hospital.

The DLRAA critical care team put Mark into an induced coma and discussed his condition with the cardiac team at Nottingham City Hospital before continuing advanced critical care during his emergency transfer to hospital in a land ambulance.Mark’s condition was too unstable for him to go by helicopter and the specialist cardiac centre doesn’t have an appropriate nearby landing site.

On arrival at the hospital the DLRAA crew handed over Mark to the surgical team who later discovered that Mark’s heart attack had been caused by a blood clot which had blocked his main artery.

He had a stent fitted and had to spend three weeks in hospital – one week in an induced coma – due to complications during his recovery, including several broken ribs, a chest infection and ingested pneumonia.

Amazingly, four months after the incident Mark started a phased return to his job as a construction site manager and proposed to Carol.

Mark now (October 2023) enjoys gardening, playing with dogs and doing some DIY.

“Over time I have built my confidence back up and I also enjoy football and tinkering with my old motor bike, even though I will never get to ride it,” say Mark.

Mark has no memory of the events, but Carol has been traumatised by the incident and started receiving counselling.

She says: “I want to share the story because it is for a very good cause, and I think people should know about the work done by the emergency services and the importance of early medical interventions like CPR.

“It is amazing that the Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland Air Ambulance brought a doctor to the scene. All the teams worked together and kept me informed and updated. Every one of them – air or land ambulance personnel – were polite, informative, and professional. They had empathy and understanding and wanted to care for me as much as the patient.”

Mark adds: “I cannot thank everyone who helped me that day enough. They gave me this amazing opportunity of a second chance at life! A massive thank you to them all from the bottom of Carol and my hearts.”

Richard Clayton, DLRAA Director of Operations describes Marks’s return to full health as “fantastic news.”

He says: “I am immensely proud of the DLRAA critical care team. This incident exemplifies the importance of the chain of survival: from the 999 call taker providing CPR advice over the phone, the immediate care provided by the first responders, the advanced care provided by DLRAA critical care team and the surgical care provided by the cardiac centre. I am absolutely delighted that Mark has gone on to make a full recovery.”