Following my first five weeks on placement I was yet to attend a cardiac arrest. On my second placement however, a well-loved Canadian voice on the radio buzzed away: 'General broadcast... all mobile on talkgroup, request for assistance, confirmed cardiac arrest'.
We were sat at hospital completing paperwork following our previous job on a night shift. As a crew we decided to 'offer up' and accept the call. Moments later, our blue lights were on and we were on route.
At this point, my head was spinning a little, running scenarios back through my head, remembering the hours we had spent in the skills labs and sim flat practising our basic life support.
As we pulled up, I could see one fast response car and one ambulance already at the scene, I gathered a) my thoughts; b) lots of gloves; and c) additional oxygen cylinder. Walking down the path I could see an elderly lady laying in the small hallway of a house, one of the EACs* providing chest compressions, another ventilations, whilst a paramedic was as their side cannulating.
Following a brief handover, my mentor took to 'managing the arrest' – that is, ensuring each person is performing their specific task correctly and checks are completed according to protocol. My crew mate changed over the oxygen cylinder, and I took over chest compressions. I can still remember thinking, 'This doesn’t feel anything like Anne' (those CPR training manikins), so don't be put off by that on your first time!
My mentor evaluated the scene and decided it was best for us to move from the small hallway into the lounge of the house, to allow us appropriate space to work and manage the patient. Clear and concise instructions were given regarding when and how we were going to move ourselves, our patient and our equipment into the room.
Once in the room we repositioned, completed a rhythm check, and I rotated with the medic providing ventilations, leaving me at the head-end managing the airway. As a crew, we had complete 360-degree access to the patient.
Thankfully, for the patient and crews involved, approximately 40 minutes after arriving on scene we had achieved ROSC*, and prepared to leave for hospital.
My experience of a real-life cardiac arrest is one I doubt I'll forget, the feeling of someone's sternum compress under your palms is surreal, and watching someone begin breathing for themselves after previously making no effort is quite a relief.
Since my 'first time' at a cardiac arrest, I am happy to say that the experience did not put me off, and I'd be comfortable attending another – it is what we train for! I am very thankful for all the preparation we did as students to ensure that we understood the rhythms, interventions and roles of each person. These are essential skills for life on the road.
*EAC = Emergency Ambulance Crew
*ROSC = Return of Spontaneous Circulation
Details changed to maintain patient confidentiality.