When Brigit Lilley suffered a serious heart attack, DSAA was on hand to help her bypass the rush hour traffic...

On the morning of my incident I awoke very early, around 06.00am. I had a strange feeling in the centre of my chest, it felt like I had something stuck or that my chest was being crushed by a brick. My husband, who often has insomnia, was asleep in our spare bedroom.  Knowing how little sleep he often gets I was reluctant to wake him at first.

The day before, while walking our dog, I had felt slightly nauseous and had a strange burning sensation at the back of my throat. In fact at the top of a fairly steep hill, I had to sit on the grass and rest for a while.  This reoccurred later that day but wore off after eating, so I presumed it could have been indigestion.

The pain that morning, however, was frighteningly intense. I eventually woke my husband and told him I wasn’t well. He asked what he should do and I said that maybe he should call somebody. He got up and said he’d make me tea! (The eternal British answer to any crisis).

Our internet and landline had been down all weekend and although the internet was back up and running, my husband couldn’t access the NHS direct website. I said to phone using my mobile, but our house is built into the side of a hill, so the signal is extremely unreliable. After giving him instructions on how to use my phone and where to get the best signal, (he has a dislike of technology), he got through to NHS direct.  

He explained my symptoms and was told that a paramedic was on its way. When he arrived he gave me an ECG and explained that it was abnormal and I would need to go to hospital. I was given an aspirin, some anti-nausea medication and told not to drink my tea. It was then that he mentioned the availability of the air ambulance, which I found rather alarming and said, “Surely I am not that bad?”

By now it was about 08.00am and in the middle of rush hour. Our home is approximately 40-45 minutes away from the Royal United Hospital in Bath and that is with light traffic. Obviously by deploying the air ambulance, the journey time would be considerably reduced.

I was placed on a stretcher onto an ambulance and then transferred to where the helicopter had landed before being placed on board. I was given some earphones to protect me from the noise and told to speak to the crew who were sat beside me if I felt worse.

After arriving at hospital the cardiologist told me that I had suffered a serious heart attack. I was given an angioplasty and had two stents inserted. They concluded by saying that I would need to wait and see what damage had been done and whether in time I would need a pacemaker.

I spent five days in hospital being closely monitored and was eventually allowed home on 5 April, just under three weeks before my son got married! Although I was unable to help with much of the wedding preparation, I was simply grateful that I was there, which is the important thing.

Fortunately, I didn’t need a pacemaker and after three years, I am doing well. It has been difficult at times as I am often beset by anxiety, especially during the first year, but I have completed my cardiac rehab and still go to cardiac exercise classes every week. I do get more tired than I used to, but I guess that’s down to age, as I am now 69! I am truly grateful to the air ambulance Critical Care Team that got me to Bath as quickly as possible. Without their care, I could easily have gone into cardiac arrest and died so thank you all so much.

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