L-R: Andrew Bell, Rachel Evans, Craig Nelson and Caroline Marshall
Craig Nelson works at Mitre 10 in Petone. His role is to open up the store at 5am each day, and together with the team, ensure that all new stock is put out on the shelves before the store opens at 7am. It is very physical work which usually sees him walking over 20,000 steps a day around the store. He has always considered himself a fit and healthy person.
One morning he was at work when, out of the blue with no obvious warning signs, he suffered a sudden cardiac arrest.
Andrew Bell is the store’s Operations Manager. The first thing he remembers is getting a phone call from a colleague to tell him that Craig had collapsed and his head was bleeding.
Andrew is a trained First Aider; he quickly grabbed some first aid supplies and ran to Craig. As he got closer, he saw Craig on the ground and realised straight away that this was bigger than a simple fall or cut to the head.
Thankfully, Andrew has done First Aid training every two years for the last 25 years and that day his instincts and his training kicked in immediately.
The first thing he did was tell his colleagues to ring for an ambulance and get the AED (automatic external defibrillator) which is located just outside their building. He asked another colleague, Bill, to stay by Craig’s head to control the bleeding.
“I have no memory of it at all,” says Craig. “I don’t even remember any warning signs. The last thing I remember is going to a Health & Safety meeting an hour or two before. At that meeting I was told where we keep our privacy screens in case there was ever an accident. I didn’t realise they’d be putting up privacy screens around me a couple of hours later!”
As well as Andrew starting CPR virtually straight away on Craig, the other factor that helped save his life was early use of an AED . When Mitre 10 purchased their AED from Wellington Free Ambulance, they made the decision to locate it on the outside of their building, making it available to the whole community as well as to their staff and their customers.
“Four of us were working as a team,” says Andrew. “I was doing CPR, Jeremy, our General Manager, used the AED to give Craig a big zap, Bill was looking after Craig’s bleeding head and Alan was on the phone to Wellington Free Ambulance.”
“I was counting really loudly to keep focus,” recalls Andrew. “The 111 call taker could hear me down the phone. He was telling Alan what to say to me, telling me to slow down at points, and encouraging me to keep going.”
“When the fire and ambulance crews turned up, I could see them out of corner of my eye but I was really focussed on what I was doing. I carried on doing CPR until I felt the weight of someone’s hand on my shoulder, and the first responders took over” he says.
“I remember just wanting to save Craig. Wanting him to come alive with all my will. I was very focussed”, says Andrew. “When I saw him leave for the hospital, he was awake, and I just remember feeling extreme relief.”
Intensive Care Paramedic Caroline Marshall was one of the first on the scene that day and says, "It is incredibly rare to have a patient talk to you immediately after surviving a cardiac arrest. Andrew's effective CPR and the early use of an AED is the reason why Craig is alive today."
Her thoughts are echoed by Wellington Free Ambulance’s Senior Heartbeat Coordinator Rachel Evans. “Our message is simple: if someone isn't breathing, call 111 and start chest compressions and don't stop until the emergency services arrive. Anyone can do it and there's nothing to fear. Any CPR is better than no CPR”
Craig’s memory of the whole event is understandably hazy. He remembers little bits and pieces, like waking up wondering what he was doing on the floor. He remembers trying to get up (a paramedic quickly laid him back down), and he remembers being taken out to the ambulance.
When Craig woke up again in the hospital, his partner & brother were there.
“I was amazed to learn that the two paramedics from the ambulance were also there, waiting to find out how I was. They were really nice, gave me a pat on the shoulder,” says Craig.
“The emergency services were fantastic. The speed, the friendliness and the care from Wellington Free Ambulance was phenomenal. It was incredible, to be completely honest.”
“I ended up staying in hospital for 22 days and having lots of tests, but the cardiologists still can’t find a reason why my heart stopped. I am a medical mystery! There were no warning signs, and it came completely out of the blue. It just shows it could happen to anybody,” says Craig.
The biggest surprise for Andrew was how well his CPR training worked. “It was amazing how everything just kicked in and I knew exactly what to do. The training really does work. That’s what surprised me the most,” says Andrew. “I’d recommend everyone does CPR training, as you just don’t know when you might need it.”
Knowing how to do CPR is the best way of increasing someone’s chances of survival from a sudden cardiac arrest. When early CPR is combined with the use of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), survival rates can increase to 80%. That’s why Wellington Free Ambulance offers the Lloyd Morrison Foundation Heartbeat Programme, free CPR training for schools, business and community groups. This is made possible thanks to the generous support of our Cornerstone Partner, Julie Nevett and the Lloyd Morrison Foundation. Find out more and book your free session here.