On Sunday 13th August 2017, 17-year-old Ben Culff from Tamworth was working at a local hotel. He had a history of non-epileptic seizures, but on this day when he collapsed in a hallway he was tragically in cardiac arrest, his heart had stopped. Thankfully, Ben’s colleagues were by his side.
The hotel chef made the 999 call and thanks to his calm approach, accurate information was given to the 999 operative which led to the right emergency service resources being deployed to the incident, and appropriate advice was also provided over the phone to help them give effective CPR to Ben until emergency help arrived.
By doing so, this meant Ben’s brain and organs received vital oxygen to reduce the damage caused by his cardiac arrest. After a few minutes, an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) that was based on site was brought to Ben. The AED was applied and shocked him twice within the first ten minutes of his cardiac arrest and before any ambulance resources arrived on scene. Quick use of the AED in conjunction with bystander CPR got Ben’s heart started again further helping to prevent brain and organ damage from lack of oxygen.
By the time the first ambulance arrived, Ben thankfully had a pulse again and was breathing but was in a severely agitated state, which is common for patients immediately after the return of spontaneous circulation.
Critical care paramedics from Midlands Air Ambulance Charity’s Tatenhill airbase arrived on scene just a matter of minutes after the 999 call. Staff at the hotel had prepared a landing site and managed people on the ground so they did not delay the landing. They also ensured a golf buggy was near the helicopter to transport the crew and their resources to the incident scene quickly.
The clinicians tried to use sedative drugs to be able to safely transport Ben to hospital. But this proved challenging as he continued to be agitated, and during the time they were with him ripped out six cannulas being used to provide him with medication. Time was incredibly important and so the team requested that a second Midlands Air Ambulance aircraft, from RAF Cosford with a pre-hospital emergency doctor on board, attend the scene to bring essential hospital capability to Ben.
Staff secured a second landing site and brought the second aircrew to the scene. With great teamwork from the ambulance crew and the Midlands Air Ambulance crews, a rapid sequence induction (RSI) was performed on Ben. This advanced technique, which is only administered by a doctor, involves anaesthetising and paralysing the patient so that they can be intubated and ventilated while the oxygenation of the tissues stabilises. With Ben anaesthetised the team were able to transfer him by helicopter to University Hospital North Midlands in Stoke on Trent.
Ben spent the next eleven days in hospital before being fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), a small piece of equipment surgically placed under the skin, which can treat people with dangerously abnormal heart rhythms by delivering a defibrillator shock. He was then able to continue recovery at home.
Critical Care Paramedic, Karen Baker, said of the incident: “Ben was extremely poorly. A cardiac arrest is when someone’s heart actually stops, and it can be very difficult to restart it. The actions taken on the day by the hotel staff were incredible. They worked as a team, under pressured circumstances to help save Ben’s life.”
Ben said: “Unknowingly to me, I left my life in the capable hands of strangers that day. Those strangers would become the heroes that I look up to everyday and no amount of thank yous could ever repay them. My colleagues’ swift actions undoubtedly aided in my survival but the work of the Midlands Air Ambulance Charity ensured I was put on the best possible road to recovery. The team had to make hard and fast choices due to my uncooperative, life threatening state but their professionalism ensured my life was brought back within the boundaries of safety.”