Posted: Sun 12th May 2024

Holidaymaker thanks North Wales ambulance staff after son’s cardiac arrest

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales


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A Northamptonshire  woman whose son had a cardiac arrest while on holiday in north Wales has praised the ambulance call handler and the crew who saved his life.

When 20-year-old Matthew Pharaoh collapsed at the family’s accommodation in Llandudno, it was his quick-thinking mother Tracey who began the chain of survival.

Tracey, an Advanced Nurse Practitioner with more than 30 years’ experience, immediately recognised that her son had stopped breathing.

The 56-year-old, from Burton Latimer, said: “Matthew suddenly stopped communicating and I could tell something wasn’t right.

“Shortly afterwards, he collapsed, and I could see from the colour of his face and the way he was lying on the ground that he wasn’t breathing.

“I was on my own with Matthew and knew that getting help to him as quickly as possible was crucial if he was going to have any chance of surviving.”

Tracey rang 999 and was connected to Welsh Ambulance Service call handler Esyllt Edwards.

Esyllt, who is based in Llanfairfechan, immediately began to organise help and talked Tracey through the administration of CPR while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

Esyllt said: “Despite the situation, Tracey was fantastic and really listened to my instructions

“She gave Matthew the best possible chance of survival and it was fantastic to hear that he went on to make a full recovery.”

Despite having delivered CPR many times over her 30-year career, Tracey had never done it outside of a hospital setting and never on a family member, let alone her own son.

She said: “Esyllt was fantastic and kept talking to me throughout, making sure that we did everything possible to give Matthew a fighting chance.”

Aron Roberts, a Cymru High Acuity Response Unit paramedic in Colwyn Bay, was among the first to arrive on scene along with Advanced Paramedic Practitioner, Maria Laffey.

Aron said: “When we arrived, we made our way up three flights of stairs with our equipment to find Matthew in cardiac arrest in the living room, with his mum giving CPR under the call takers instructions.

“A second crew arrived and took over CPR while we attached the defibrillator and found him to be in VF (ventricular fibrillation), so we delivered a shock.

“Due to Matthew’s circumstances, we decided to use a mechanical chest compression device which delivered CPR automatically, freeing us up to focus on other areas of Matthew’s care.”

However, the crew now faced the difficult task of extracting Matthew from the third floor of the holiday apartment.

Maria said: “We needed to transfer Matthew down three flights of narrow, winding stairs to the ambulance during heavy rain before he could be taken to hospital.

“This presented us with a number of difficulties, and we had to stop several times to reassess Matthew and make sure it was still safe to continue.”

The crew eventually made it safely to the ambulance and Matthew was taken to Ysbyty Glan Clwyd where he was heavily sedated in order to aid his recovery – but he was far from being out of danger.

Since birth, Matthew also had DiGeorge syndrome, a condition that can cause a range of lifelong problems, including heart defects and learning difficulties.

As a result, he required open heart surgery when he was nine months old and more recently, a valve replacement in 2021.

Following his arrival at hospital, Tracey had the difficult task of contacting her husband Alex, a forklift engineer who was on a cycling holiday in Spain.

She said: “I managed to speak to Alex and he rushed home on the first available flight.

“He arrived at Liverpool Airport just after midnight and immediately went looking for a taxi.

“When he got in the taxi and asked to be taken to a hospital in Wales, naturally the taxi driver was curious as to what was going on.

“After hearing what had happened, he assured him he would get him to Glan Clwyd Hospital as quickly as possible and true to his word, the taxi driver dropped Alex off at the hospital at 2:00am, just 90 minutes after touching down in Liverpool.”

Tracey, Alex and Matthew were reunited in the hospital where Matthew improved over several weeks and is now almost fully recovered.

Tracey said: “On behalf of myself, Alex and Matthew, we can’t thank the crew or the call handler enough.

“What they did was amazing and even after more than three decades as a nurse, I’m still in awe of these remarkable people.”

When someone has a cardiac arrest, they collapse and become unresponsive.

They either stop breathing entirely, or they may take gasping or infrequent breaths for a few minutes, which can be misinterpreted as snoring.

If you see someone having a cardiac arrest, phone 999 immediately and start CPR.

In addition, a defibrillator will deliver a controlled electric shock to try and get the heart beating normally again.

Ambulance call handlers will tell you where your nearest defibrillator is.

The Resuscitation Council UK has produced a step-by-step guide to doing CPR:

How to do CPR | Resuscitation Council UK

All new and existing defibrillators must be registered on the national defibrillator network The Circuit so that 999 call handlers can see their location:

The Circuit – the national defibrillator network

The Welsh Ambulance Service continues to work in partnership with Welsh Government and third sector partners to strive to deliver the Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest Plan in Wales.

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