sue and pete caswell

Pete Caswell’s life was in many people’s hands after he suffered an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. An unbelievable effort by passersby played a key part in Pete’s chain of survival. His wife, Sue, kindly tells us more…

The incident

It was back in August when Pete started having chest pains on and off for a few days. Eventually, I persuaded him to let me take him to A&E. After arriving at Yeovil District Hospital, Pete was told he was having a heart attack and admitted. Four days later he was transferred to Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton to have a stent fitted. After the procedure, he was transferred back to Yeovil on the same day and then discharged home the day after.

Pete's recovery

All seemed to be going well and heading in the right direction. As part of Pete’s recovery, walking was advised, so a few days later we decided to go for a walk after I finished work. We were chatting away very happily and about five minutes away from home when Pete said: “Suzi I need to…” I looked at him and within a second he dropped to the ground, hitting his head hard as he fell. I got down on the floor and realised then that he had suffered another heart attack.

A young man came over to see if he could help. He got down with Pete and I called 999. I was trying to stay calm, but it was so hard and it felt like a lifetime to get through on the phone. Pete wasn’t breathing, I don’t think he had a pulse and he had gone into cardiac arrest. Another young man who turned up was also calling the emergency services. We established our location with the call handler and she started talking us through CPR.

By this time, a few people had turned up to help. A gentleman went to see if he could get the defibrillator from the doctor’s surgery and two ladies (Toni and Sue) joined in to help with CPR. The team of bystanders kept working hard on Pete for about eight minutes, until a rapid response car arrived.

The arrival of help

It wasn’t long before an ambulance, a second rapid response car and Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance (DSAA) arrived at the scene. One of the doctors from the surgery came down with Pete’s medical information to help the crew. Meanwhile, I was taken away from the scene and sat in a car, so I had no more knowledge of what else was happening at that time. Everyone held up sheets around Pete and the team to give them some privacy.

Toni was looking after me and she helped to ring my daughter and my sister who lives just down the road. They came to meet me, along with my brother and brother-in-law, who rang Pete’s children.

Pete was sedated and stabilised in the ambulance before being airlifted to Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton. The journey would have taken about an hour by road, but it was only 15 minutes by helicopter. The crew were so kind and kept me in the loop with what was happening, although I couldn’t take it all in at the time.

A second hospital trip

In hospital, they found that Pete had developed a blood clot and it had blocked the original stent that had been fitted. The stent was replaced with a new one, before Pete was put on life-support and taken to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). We were told they would try and wake him up the next day. We managed to find local accommodation as we thought we may have to say goodbye to him that night.

The next morning we went to the hospital for when Pete would hopefully wake up. Thankfully, he did, but he was very disoriented. Our next worry was for his brain, as it had been without oxygen for a while when he had stopped breathing.

After the incident

Pete couldn’t retain any information and it looked like he had short-term memory loss. He remained in ICU before being transferred to another ward for a week and then eventually he was discharged home.

Sadly, while Pete was in hospital, I had a call from my sister to say that my mum had passed away. I had only spoken to her earlier that day and was seeing her that night as I was coming home. 

Although Pete has no recollection of anything that happened and he finds that some things aren’t as easy as before, his recovery has been amazing! It has only been four months since his heart attack and thankfully he is back to his usual self and his memory has also returned to normal.

Kirsty Caswell (no relation to us), one of the charity’s patient and family liaison nurses, took such good care of me and our children. I thought that the help we would receive would be for Pete, but she was there for all of us every step of the way. I would have been lost without her.

My daughter Chrissy and her friend Esme raised over £3,400 for DSAA by holding car boot sales, bingo and a raffle; we are very proud of them both. Esme had her own reasons for supporting the charity, as her family members have also needed help from the air ambulance, so it was her way of saying thank you for the amazing job that you do.

A big thank you to everyone who helped Pete that day. From the passersby who gave him a fighting chance until the ambulance and air ambulance teams arrived and of course the DSAA crew who did an amazing job!

The DSAA team that attended Pete’s incident were: DSAA Somerset Outreach Car – Chris Dragatis. DSAA Helicopter – Jeremy Reid, Jo Hernandez, Paul Nolan and Jack Cooke. Also in attendance from the ambulance service were: Thomas Adams, Martin Burrow and Luke Jeffries.

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