Every week on average, four people suffer a cardiac arrest somewhere in the Wellington and Wairarapa regions.
Steve and Diane know only too well, how crucial early intervention is to save a life.
They recently undertook Wellington Free Ambulance’s Heartbeat training programme that teaches life saving CPR skills to the community for free thanks to the Lloyd Morrison Foundation.
Diane wanted a refresher; Steve wanted to be able to help her, as she had him, if ever needed.
“It was an excellent review - having the automated external defibrillator (AED) explained to us and how to use it,”said Diane.
Wellington Free Ambulance’s Wairarapa Heartbeat Coordinator, Matt believes most people learn CPR with the selfless motive of wanting to help a loved one or a member of their community.
Matt said it is essential for communities living in rural areas to learn CPR and understand how to access and use a community AED.
“In rural areas medical help can take time to arrive, and every minute without CPR the chance of survival decreases by about 10%.”
“Good compressions and the early use of an AED are the most important aspects when treating a cardiac arrest.
“Through Heartbeat we teach compression-only CPR at a rate of 120 compressions per minute. That may seem like a lot, but we teach you how to work as a team.”
Diane remembers the day when Steve went into cardiac arrest.
It happened on a routine morning - there were no warning signs.
“Steve had been tired but nothing out of the ordinary. We both put it down to the work he had been doing outside and around neighbouring properties.”
Hearing a funny noise, she thought “that’s not right”.
Finding Steve unresponsive at the breakfast bar, she shook him.
“Your body wants to panic, but you have to tell it not to and just do what you need to do.”
Cellphone reception is limited on the couple’s rural lifestyle block. Thankful they still had a landline, she immediately dialled 111.
“The 111 call taker was absolutely brilliant at keeping me focussed.”
“I knew I needed to do CPR – my mum was a nurse and taught me a lot – but it was 20 years ago and things have changed.”
Luckily, Diane was able to put the call on speaker while the call taker gave instructions on what to do.
After 20 minutes of CPR the paramedics arrived “it was tiring but I just had to keep going.”
When the ambulance left Steve had a 50/50 chance of survival.
Soon after he was flown to Wellington Hospital where he spent two days in an induced coma. Two weeks later and fitted with a pacemaker defibrillator he returned home.
Diane said she doesn’t dwell on it now.
“We just carry on, there’s always a lot more people worse off than us.”
“You just get on with life, but I still keep an eye on him.”
Steve said he feels fine now but acknowledges he’s not the same.
“I know i’m not as good as I was but I’ll still have a go at most things.”
He doesn’t remember much from that day but knows he is extemely fortunate to still be here.
He credits his recovery to taking things slowly but still keeping active.
“At the end of the day you have to push yourself; push the boundaries a little bit.”
His perspective on life has changed, he says you never know what is around the corner.
“I try not to stress about the small stuff now.”
He encourages others to do the same, enjoy life and be thankful especially if you’re in good health. “Some people don’t realise how lucky they are.”
The couple now reguarly donate to Wellington Free Ambulance; it’s their way of saying thanks.
“There are a lot of people who worked together to save my life and to get me to where I am today.”
“I have a lot of guardian angels; there’s one sitting beside me and others I don’t even know.”
He and Diane encouage everyone to learn CPR; especially their rural community.
More information about Heartbeat or to book your free training visit: www.wfa.org.nz/heartbeat