Shock of life that helped save Betty
Taupo¯ woman Betty Rosanoski could hardly have chosen a better place to have a cardiac arrest. She was already in the back of a St John ambulance when she unexpectedly had a massive heart attack. Luckily, she was only a metre away from the ambulance’s AED — automated external defibrillator — a portable device that delivers an electric shock to help restore the heart’s natural rhythm. The senior citizen, who lives alone, was at home on the morning of Wednesday, May 26, when she began feeling pain in the centre of her chest. As it worsened, she reluctantly decided to activate her St John alarm. Betty got a call from St John and the call taker stayed on the line while they waited for the ambulance to arrive, with emergency medical technicians Brendon Feck and Kate Shepherd aboard. By this stage Betty was in a lot of pain and vomiting. Brendon and Kate assessed her and then took her out to the ambulance. The last thing Betty remembers is asking them to bring her handbag and front-door key. “I don’t remember getting into the ambulance and that’s when I nearly went up to the pearly gates.” Betty had gone into cardiac arrest and her heart had stopped. Brendon and Kate used CPR and the AED in the ambulance, and the shock was enough to restart her heart. The next event Betty recalls was opening her eyes in the ambulance. “I always thought you saw a bright light, but they had shut the [pearly] gates before I got there.” She was then flown by the Greenlea rescue helicopter to Waikato Hospital, where she had a stent inserted and was sent home two days later. The next week she was well enough to go to the Taupo¯ St John station to thank the paramedics. “If it hadn’t been for Brendon I wouldn’t be here today, so I went up and thanked them and they made a fuss of me and got photos and were delighted.” Betty also invited St John clinical support officer Peter Lockie to talk to Taupo¯‘s 60s-Up group about AEDs and the importance of knowing CPR. Peter says while Betty was “a lucky lady” to have had her cardiac arrest with an AED so close by, for others it may be a matter of having people nearby who know what to do. He says anyone can help restart a heart by following the three steps of Call, Push and Shock. They stand for calling 111 for help, doing CPR by using chest compressions and breathing, and using an AED where possible. “CPR is really, really important. The brain relies on good circulation and oxygen and nutrients and if the heart stops, the quicker we can recognise that their heart has stopped pumping and take action, the better the chances of survival. “You don’t necessarily have to know how to do CPR, the call handlers on the phone will instruct the person how to do CPR, it’s very simple and you don’t need experience to be able to save a life.” Peter says AEDs are often located in businesses like banks and gyms, public places and council venues, and they provide automatic voice instructions to the user. The free smartphone app AED Locations shows the nearest AED to a person’s location. Another free app, GoodSam, alerts registered people in the vicinity who know CPR that their help is needed.