Posted: Fri 1st Oct 2021

Woman thought her husband was snoring – but he was having a cardiac arrest in his sleep

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, Oct 1st, 2021

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A super-fit cycling enthusiast who had a sudden cardiac arrest in his sleep survived thanks to the actions of his quick-thinking wife. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Jennifer Dunne was woken in the early hours of the morning by husband Geraint’s ‘snoring’ – but amusement turned to panic when she could not rouse him. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

In and extraordinary 999 call, Jennifer told the Welsh Ambulance Service she thought her 39-year-old husband had died. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The call handler told Jennifer how to perform CPR, which she did single-handedly for eight minutes until the ambulance arrived – all while the couple’s two-year-old daughter Gwen slept in the next room. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Ambulance crews shocked Geraint with a defibrillator 15 times to restart his heart. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

After a month-long stay in hospital, he has lived to tell the tale. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Geraint said: “There are no words to say how grateful I am – not just to Jen for the CPR, but to the call handler, the ambulance crew, everyone. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Thanks to them, I have a second chance at life.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The Cardiff couple had been watching Love Island on television before retiring to bed, but in the early hours of the morning, Jennifer had a surprise awakening. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

She said: “I woke up to the sound of Geraint snoring, which he does now and again, so I didn’t think much of it. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“I tried to rouse him but couldn’t so just assumed he was in a deep sleep. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“It was only when I nipped to the loo and came back into the room did I realise that something was seriously wrong. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“That’s when I called 999.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

It was Welsh Ambulance Service call handler Stephen Meaker who picked up Jennifer’s call from the Trust’s Clinical Contact Centre in Cwmbran. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Stephen said: “As soon as Jennifer said she thought her husband had died, I knew instantly that I’d be talking her through CPR. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“She was absolutely brilliant and so calm. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Often in a cardiac arrest scenario, people are in denial and they don’t want to do the chest compressions, but Jennifer understood the seriousness of the situation and just did it.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Jennifer, 40, added: “I just remember the call handler telling me to get Geraint off the bed and onto the floor. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“I don’t know how I did it, but I found the strength from somewhere. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“The next thing I know he was talking me through chest compressions. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“I never thought I’d have to perform CPR on anyone, let alone on my husband. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“I think I was in a state of complete shock, but the call handler was brilliant at keeping me calm.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Paramedic Corey Mead and Emergency Medical Technician Jo Sherrin, based in Blackweir, were first to arrive at the property. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Corey said: “It’s very rare that a 39-year-old has a cardiac arrest, so when we got allocated the call, we knew it was serious. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“I walked into the room and found Jennifer doing very effective CPR, which was probably what improved Geraint’s chance of survival the most to be honest. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“We shocked him with a defibrillator 15 times in total – we’d get him back briefly but then he’d go back into cardiac arrest.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Jo added: “We worked on him for about an hour and 40 minutes all told. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“I think lady luck played a huge part – if Geraint’s wife had not woken up in the first place, it’d be a completely different story.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Supporting Corey and Jo were Emergency Medical Technicians Chris Bayliss-Smith and Matt Collins, from nearby Roath. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Matt said: “I’ve dealt with hundreds of cardiac arrests over the years, and this is the first time I’ve helped to get someone back. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Geraint had everything in his favour so we knew there was a fighting chance. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“I just remember thinking how calm his wife was, even assisting us by holding fluids and passing bits of kit.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Chris added: “Considering her husband was being resuscitated, Jennifer stayed so calm and collected. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“The most poignant moment for me amid the chaos was seeing Geraint’s daughter on the baby monitor next to the bed.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Colleagues from Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service (EMRTS) Cymru helped to stabilise and sedate Geraint before he was taken to the University Hospital of Wales. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Doctors suspect it was myocarditis which led to Geraint’s cardiac arrest in mid-August, which is an inflammation of the heart muscle caused by a virus. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

He has since been fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), which sends electrical pulses to regulate abnormal heart rhythms. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Geraint, who works at the Equality and Human Rights Commission as Principal, Policy and External Affairs, said: “This came completely out of the blue to us all. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“The only illness I have to speak of is a kidney disease which I’ve managed since childhood, but there’s no family history of heart disease at all. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“I’m fit and healthy, I eat well and I enjoy my cycling, so if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“I know better than anyone that CPR is such an important skill, and I’d urge everyone to learn it and have a go.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Today at Blackweir Ambulance Station, Geraint was reunited with the call handler and crew who helped to save his life. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

He said: “We’ve got a young family, which we’ve waited such a long time for, and the thought of Gwen growing up without a dad pains me. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“I’ve been given the most amazing gift, which is a second chance at life.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Jennifer, who works with her husband as a Senior Associate, added: “We know how incredibly lucky we are, especially given the statistics about out-of-hospital cardiac arrests. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Our daughter would not have a dad if it wasn’t for the Welsh Ambulance Service. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“We’re eternally grateful.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Today marks the start of the Trust’s annual Shoctober campaign, which is designed to educate the public about the importance of early CPR and defibrillation. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

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. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Watch this video from the Resuscitation Council UK about how to perform CPR. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The Trust has also produced this animation for children which is available in Welsh and British Sign Language too. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

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. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

It is important that new and existing defibrillators are registered on The Circuit in order that 999 operators can quickly and easily alert callers to their location if needed. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Jason Killens, Chief Executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “Geraint’s story is such a powerful reminder about the importance of the ‘chain of survival.’ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Without Jennifer’s quick-thinking actions, it could have been a very different outcome. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“These life or death situations are what our staff train for, and I’m so thrilled we’ve been able to make a difference to this family. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“We wish Geraint all the best on his continued recovery.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

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