“It was amazing to meet the special people who saved Alistair’s life.”
On Monday 17th April 2023, Alistair Hopper (41) left his house in Stevenage for his usual morning routine, which began by taking his youngest daughter Imogen (9) to school. The morning quickly took an unsettling turn when Alistair failed to arrive back home ahead of his regular 9am work conference call, which raised concern for his wife Gemma, who was also working from home that day.
“The kids were just back after the Easter holidays, so it felt like a rushed morning,” reflected Gemma. “When it was five past nine, I did think to myself, that’s really odd. Where is he? Maybe he’s popped to get some milk. And literally, three minutes later, another school mum, who I didn’t know too well, said, ‘how close are you to the school?’ My initial thought was that something happened to Immy, I didn’t suspect Ali at all.”
When Gemma was informed that Ali had collapsed outside the school, she quickly jumped into her car and drove around the corner, and what she witnessed “could only be described as a scene from casualty”.
“There were ambulances, the fire engine and the police. As soon as I stepped out of the car, an officer took me aside, and I could see people working on him.”
Tom (another dad from the school) had sprung into action, after spotting Alistair in distress. He promptly called for an ambulance and began administering high-quality chest compressions. As the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) arrived, they utilised an automated device which delivers effective mechanical chest compressions freeing the clinicians to administer other essential assessments and interventions. It was clear everything was being done to give Alistair the best chance of survival, but the moment Gemma heard EHAAT’s helicopter, she felt a sense of reassurance and, most importantly, hope.
EHAAT’s AW169 helicopter landed close by. Pre-hospital Care Doctor, Dr Phil Naidoo and Critical Care Paramedic, Sinead Keane, assessed Alistair. They made the pivotal decision to transfer him to Lister Hospital in Stevenage, recognising the specialised care he required – a decision that would ultimately prove instrumental in Alistair’s remarkable recovery.
As the family reunited with EEAST and EHAAT crew members at EHAAT’s North Weald airbase, they were able to fill in the gaps about Alistair’s incident, and about the partnership between EHAAT and the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST). Daughter Imogen, proudly wearing a paramedic flight suit, sat beside Sinead during the base visit and listened intently to the accounts of that life-changing day she then demonstrated that she was able to give two minutes of good chest compressions on the mannequin even at her young age. Gemma believes this experience may have a lasting impact on Imogen, potentially inspiring her to consider a future helping others, just like the crew members she met at the airbase.
Sinead emphasised the vital role of bystanders in critical moments like these, demonstrating the life-changing difference people can make. She also praised EEAST paramedics for their actions on the day.
“He received early CPR, which is one of the key factors for his incredible recovery. EEAST administered early defibrillation, and I have to say, they were absolutely on top of it. From our perspective, when we arrived, they had already achieved ROSC (the return of spontaneous circulation). They worked tirelessly, following the algorithm and doing everything by the book. They truly did an exceptional job. It goes to show that when all the pieces fall into place, it works. And obviously, Alistair was putting up quite a fight for it.”
Following the recent base visit with crew members and EHAAT’s patient and family liaison team, Gemma shared her heartfelt gratitude.
“I just wanted to reach out and say thank you again for such a lovely morning. It was amazing to meet the special people who saved Alistair’s life. It was wonderful for him to put faces to the story, and it was such an unforgettable experience for the children. You are all wonderful people. Thank you again.”