Sean Purcell’s story made media headlines around the world when rescuers came to his aid after a virus caused his heart to stop beating while he was on a morning run along Whites Beach in Torquay, Victoria in June . Sean had suffered a cardiac arrest and he collapsed face first into the water.
What happened next was truly remarkable. A group of quick thinking locals came together to administer lifesaving CPR while one rescuer ran 1.5km on sand to retrieve an automated external defibrillator (AED) from a nearby golf club.
This team of urban lifesavers used the AED to shock his heart and keep him alive long enough to ensure that paramedics could stabilise him and air-lift him to hospital.
Sean’s prognosis was bleak; if he was to survive, doctors thought he was likely to suffer permanent brain damage. But Sean did survive and thrived, and because of the efforts of strangers is here to tell the story about his collapse, a five-day coma, a journey of recovery and his quest to find and thank his rescuers that went global as a different kind of virus!
Sean has been given a second chance and is now committed to sharing his story in order to shed a light on the importance of CPR training and accessibility to public defibrillators. He is also committed to giving back in his management role with Cotton On community projects.
Jason Cripps is a 39-year-old husband and father of three children and a former Australian Rules footballer. He is currently the list manager for the Port Adelaide Football Club and was in Perth on Saturday 13 June 2015 to watch an Under-18 match as part of his recruiting duties. Jason set out with some colleagues on Saturday morning for a 5 km run. Only 200 m from the finish, he crouched down and collapsed in the dirt in sudden cardiac arrest.
Similar to Sean’s rescue, another team of urban lifesavers, his colleagues and strangers, combined their efforts to give Jason another chance of life. One colleague, Michael Regan, and a doctor who happened to be walking nearby began CPR. Two ladies stopped and helped with the rescue. Other members of Jason’s running group swung into action to help with CPR, send for help and guide the paramedics to the scene.The doctor was timing the incident and as 10 minutesof CPR passed, everyone was feeling anxious about Jason’s likelihood of survival.
The case of 32-year-old new mother Samantha (Sam) Jobe clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of having an emergency action plan and applying early defibrillation. On 10 May 2014, Sam attended the Crossfit121 fitness centre at Cheltenham, Melbourne, accompanied by her husband, Damien, and two-month-old baby daughter, Makayla. Sam had just started her ropes workout when she suffered a sudden cardiac arrest and collapsed to the floor. The trainers of the gym, Maria, Chris and Tara immediately called Triple Zero (000) and started cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
The gym did not have an AED but, fortunately for everyone, the business next door, BASF, had purchased an AED only weeks earlier when they identified that the location of the nearest AED unit was a considerable distance away. BASF had then informed all the local businesses where the AED was located. The AED was retrieved from BASF and used to defibrillate Sam.
The first aid management of Sam’s cardiac arrest was textbook perfect. Her rescuers continued CPR after the delivery of the shock and two minutes later the AED analysed her heart rhythm again. This time it said ‘no shock advised’. Sam, however, was still unconscious and not breathing. Rather than assume that the AED had not succeeded, the rescuers continued with CPR.
Shortly after paramedics arrived and were able to assist her ventilation and she started breathing on her home. The AED had actually succeeded in restoring her normal heart rhythm which is why there was ‘no shock advised’ the second time. As often happens, Sam had not yet resumed breathing on her own. Had they given up at that point, she would have gone back into cardiac arrest.
Sam survived and now has an implanted defibrillator which has saved her life a second time when it detected a lethal heart rhythm and automatically defibrillated her, early enough to prevent her suffering another full cardiac arrest. Chris and Maria subsequently purchased an AED for their Crossfit121 centre.
It is important to note that Sam did not have a heart attack; the cause of her cardiac arrest is believed to be an abnormal heart rhythm or electrical disturbance of her heartbeat. Cardiac arrests in younger people are rarely caused by a heart attack and, if defibrillated quickly, a young person’s abnormal heart rhythm can be effectively reversed. Too many young victims do not survive, however, because AEDs are not available quickly enough.
Sam now works in administration for Cardiac Science Australia.
Thursday 14 April 2016 started the same as always. I left home to take my 2 year old son Henry to his day carer and drove to work. I am a teacher of Grade 2 students. A lot of what happened that day is lost in my memory but what was to happen that afternoon would change my life.
My last memory was making plans to meet a friend, Hannah, after school for a coffee catch up. My next memory is Saturday 16 April 2016. I was in hospital and it was my 5th wedding anniversary andhad no memory of anything that had happened
On Thursday after I had left work, I went to our local Aldi store and I have been told that I got to the back of the store when a lady heard me say that I didn’t feel well and thought I was going to faint. I collapsed to the floor landing face down.
Witnesses assumed I had fainted and tried to make me comfortable. Several minutes passed before a staff member realised from the colour of my skin colour that it was far more serious. I was not breathing – there was no sign of life. Two life-saving staff members performed CPR tirelessly for approximately 8 minutes until the ambulance arrived.
Unfortunately, the shopping centre defibrillator could not be found.
Paramedics needed to deliver two shocks to restart my heart and they quickly transported me to Sunshine Hospital.
My friend Hannah was waiting for me outside the store and watched in shock as I was wheeled past. She immediately contacted my father and arranged for my son to be collected from day care. She was the angel who drove my mum to the hospital and returned to stay with my dad and son at my home.
The paramedics had called my husband who was stuck in gridlock traffic. My brother phoned him and directed him on how to get to the hospital.
My injuries included cracked ribs, cracked sternum, bruised lung and retrograde amnesia from the lack of oxygen to the brain. None of the many tests, including CAT scan, angiogram, Xray, MRI of brain and heart, echocardiograms, revealed any explanation for the cardiac arrest. Luckily, or unluckily, I have no memory of my time in Emergency and when I woke up two days later, I was on the ward.
The doctors and my family gently broke the news to me that I had had a cardiac arrest.
The doctors gently explained what had happened and I came to learn how incredibly lucky I was to be alive. I couldn’t get my head around the fact that my heart had stopped and I had been clinically dead. I am 33 years old and perfectly healthy. I cried with total disbelief and shock. I learnt that my first words after regaining consciousness at the shops were ‘where’s Henry?’ who wasn’t with me.
After 15 days in hospital I became the second person in Victoria to get a new second generation defibrillator inserted into my chest. Unlike the first generation model, this device is less invasive and is called a subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillator (S-ICD) .It sits under the skin just under my arm, rather than under the collar bone and is remotely monitored by doctors through a device that sits next to my bed.
Two days later, I was discharged and have continued to recover, although my internal defibrillator has shocked me again in July.
Physically, my recovery has gone very well with everything healing nicely and the device downloading perfectly! Emotionally, I struggle knowing that my heart stopped and I was so close to losing my life. I can’t help but think about all the circumstances that changed to ensure that I was in a public spot to receive lifesaving treatment quickly. The alternative would have resulted in death if I had been on my own at home.
I am proud to say my school now has an AED and my local shopping centre has now installed one in the food court. It makes me feel my event has made a difference.
I certainly owe my life to two wonderful people and am so lucky to still be here for my gorgeous son, husband, family and friends.
In 2010, 53-year-old Leigh Clarnette, winemaker at Montara Wines in Victoria collapsed in cardiac arrest during dinner. Leigh’s wife Karen and Michael Stapleton phoned Triple Zero (000) and performed CPR assisted by the emergency services operator, until the arrival of emergency services. Michael did not have previous first aid training however Karen had undertaken CPR training over many years in her role as a teacher and principal.
The story had a very happy ending because paramedics were able to reach Leigh and defibrillate him, thanks to Michael and Karen’s effective delivery of CPR, which maintained heart and brain perfusion of blood and oxygen until paramedics arrived. Despite requiring multiple defibrillation shocks in transport to and on arrival at hospital, Leigh survived and still works for Montara Wines as the winemaker.
He had not suffered a heart attack – his cardiac arrest had been caused by an abnormality of the electrical conduction system in his heart. He now has an implanted defibrillator.
Although this rescue finished with a successful recovery, it is not the norm because survival in these circumstances of delayed defibrillation is a most unusual albeit fortunate outcome.
It is a lesson, however, that rescuers should always attempt and continue resuscitation until medical aid arrives because it can never be assumed that survival is beyond hope.