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Glen’s story – “Without the amazing work of everyone involved I wouldn’t be alive now”

Glen’s story – “Without the amazing work of everyone involved I wouldn’t be alive now”

Glen’s story – “Without the amazing work of everyone involved I wouldn’t be alive now”

A busy, jet-setting businessman and keen runner, it was a typical workday for Glen. That morning, he’d enjoyed his usual daily run before work (he owns a casting manufacturing company with wife Yolly), and now his suitcase was packed, ready for a 6am flight the following day. But in the early hours of the morning, Glen suffered a cardiac arrest - the sudden loss of all heart activity. His wife Yolly performed CPR, under the guidance of a 111 Call Taker, before two Wellington Free Ambulance crews and Fire and Emergency NZ arrived. Read Glen’s story; someone cardiac specialists have dubbed ‘lucky to be alive’.

Glen considers himself as someone who has always ‘kept good health’, as seen by the ‘heaps of running’ he enjoys every morning. When he reflects on the day of his cardiac arrest, Glen jokes that it was a day that he “wasn’t expecting any drama!” especially as he’d been ‘feeling great’ while out running that morning.

However, Glen remembers that a few weeks before his cardiac arrest, while driving back from Taupō he had “never felt so tired in my life. It was really tough to keep going”. He’d been feeling this extreme tiredness for a while and remarked to Yolly that “it felt like I was dragging my carcass around”. He’d taken to daytime naps to get through the working day, but, like most of us in our busy lives, put it down to work and travel.

‘Struggling to breathe’

That night, Glen headed to bed “feeling fine”. He had an early start planned, to catch his 6am international flight. He said goodnight to his family, not knowing he’d next see them on Sunday when he woke up in Hutt Hospital.

Just after midnight on Friday morning, Glen’s son got up to use the bathroom and heard his dad making groaning noises – Glen was struggling to breathe. Quickly waking up his mum Yolly who was sleeping with their grandson, he called 111.

Although it was Glen’s son who originally made the call, the phone was passed between him, their daughter and Yolly as they frantically tried to save Glen’s life.

Yolly remembers the Call Taker “asking multiple questions as I was trying to wake Glen up, but I was just begging them to tell me what to do”.

Performing CPR with support over the phone

Once the Call Taker had established that it was likely Glen had suffered a cardiac arrest, they gave Yolly instructions about how to perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation – a method to keep blood pumping around the body). Although Yolly had taken a first aid course years ago, in the panic of the situation, she reflects that she “totally forgot to do CPR straightaway”.

Yolly explains that “I really needed the support from the Call Taker. They told me exactly what to do. I was really scared and panicking. As I did CPR, I was screaming at the Call Taker, ‘where is the ambulance?’ But when they told me to do the CPR while they counted, counting with them really calmed me down and helped me focus on what was going on.”

Yolly administered CPR on Glen by herself, with her son nearby holding the phone up so she could hear the Call Taker counting, for several minutes before the first ambulance arrived.

“They went about their job”

Saving a life is always a team effort, from the actions of the Call Taker providing CPR instructions over the phone to the arrival of emergency services before transport to the local emergency department.

Because of the seriousness of Glen’s situation, two Wellington Free Ambulance crews arrived, as well as a crew from Fire and Emergency NZ. Yolly remembers the immense feeling of relief she felt when the crews arrived. She says, “I could see them doing everything they needed to. I was amazed at how calm they were – while I was panicking and shouting ‘help him, help him!’, they went about their job”.

The crews transferred Glen to an ambulance where he was taken to Hutt Hospital emergency department. Yolly went in the ambulance with Glen, while their son followed in the car.

One life-changing week

Yolly remembers the emergency department doctors explaining what was happening – although Glen had opened his eyes and was making noises, they decided to sedate him. Glen stayed in the Intensive Care Unit until early the following week, when he was transferred to Wellington Hospital for surgery.

Glen underwent an angioplasty (a procedure to widen a blocked or narrowed coronary artery to improve blood flow to the heart by the insertion of a stent (a short wire mesh tube)). He was also fitted with an ICD (implantable cardioverter defibrillator – a small device that keeps the heart beating at a steady rate).

One week after his cardiac arrest, Glen was released from hospital.

‘Lucky to be alive’

Glen has learnt all of this since his cardiac arrest. He has no memory of what happened to him between going to bed on Thursday night and waking up in Hutt Hospital Cardiac Unit on Sunday.

Glen says, “it’s all a blur. When I woke up, I saw some of my kids were there and thought ‘oh, huh. Well, we’re all here, might as well have a nice chat and a laugh about something!’. I wasn’t panicked, I think I knew I was in hospital but not why or what happened”.

A few months on from his cardiac arrest, Glen is back to doing “a little bit of work from home, three or four hours maximum, before I get tired and need a lunchtime and late afternoon nap”.

For such a fit and healthy man, Glen admits that he’s finding his recovery “really hard – I get dizzy spells and have low energy. I struggle to walk. I feel like everything’s disjointed between my brain and body and like I’m having to learn everything again, like walking”.

Glen remembers that a few weeks into his recovery, he was out on a short walk when “I was crossing the road and saw a car coming. I thought ‘oh I’ll just run across in front of the car’ but my legs wouldn’t work! There was nothing there”. Glen believes that his recovery “is much tougher than I thought” but he also laughingly admits that “patience isn’t one of my virtues!”. 

Glen’s anticipating up to six months of recovery and rehabilitation but maintains a positive attitude, believing it’ll “happen when it happens”. At his recent appointment with a cardiac specialist, they were keen to impress on him that it takes a ‘long time to fully recover’ – this was probably prompted by Glen asking when he could start travelling overseas again! The cardiac specialist started laughing and reminded Glen that he’s “lucky to be alive”.

For now, the hardest thing for Glen is “making the decision to sleep at night” – an understandable reluctance, given recent events.

“I certainly wouldn’t be alive without it”

Glen and his whānau are looking forward to more holidays in the sun as his recovery progresses.

When reflecting on his experience Glen looks to a wider healthcare setting and his entire healthcare journey, from the 111 call to the emergency services response to the hospital treatment he received.

In typical Kiwi fashion, Glen believes that “when the shit hits the fan”, our country’s healthcare service is “absolutely bloody unbelievable. Just fantastic”. He appreciates the long hours worked by those in the healthcare sector and says, “I can’t speak highly enough of them”. 

Yolly simply says that Wellington Free was “very helpful and amazing. I’m very thankful”.

Without the quick and expert medical care of Wellington Free Ambulance, Glen believes: “I certainly wouldn’t be alive without them, and our 3-year-old grandson would have had a very different life.”

“Without the amazing work of everyone involved, I would not be alive now - so saying thank you does not seem enough - but hopefully you know I mean it - thanks to everyone.”

To help us be here when people like Glen need us, 24/7, for free, please support us by donating.



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