“Lewis’ ability to recognise the signs and act quickly turned a potential tragedy into a moment of hope and survival.”
On a seemingly ordinary morning in February 2023, Bill Shiells headed to his local swimming pool in Essex, anticipating another routine workout. Unfortunately, this unassuming morning swim would take a dramatic turn when he stepped into the shower. Bill suddenly collapsed due to a cardiac arrest and faced a life-threatening battle for survival.
“It was just a normal day,” Bill said. “I don’t actually remember swimming, but I was in the shower afterwards – that’s all I remember, and then apparently I collapsed.”
In that critical moment, Lewis, a lifeguard, spotted Bill and sprang into action, calling for an ambulance and initiating high-quality CPR. Working closely with his mother Joanne and his colleague Jaime, the trio retrieved the defibrillator (AED), applied the pads to Bill’s chest, and delivered a shock to his heart.
Meanwhile, at EEAST’s Ambulance Operations Centre (AOC) in Chelmsford, two 999 calls came in. Call Handler Megan Downs provided calm guidance to the lifeguards and monitored the rate of compressions. Her colleague, Rebecca Croxford, efficiently collected details from another witness who reported Bill’s cardiac arrest. The nearest available EEAST crews were dispatched by Shannon Thurston and Samantha Clayden to get help to the leisure pool in the shortest time.
As their outstanding efforts continued, the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) team arrived, deploying The Lund University Cardiopulmonary Assist System (LUCAS) device to provide consistent and effective chest compressions. Multiple shocks were administered to Bill’s heart in their quest to restore a normal rhythm, all while keeping oxygen circulating effectively.
Essex & Herts Air Ambulance were dispatched by the CCD desk – manned by Dean Nock and Keith Legresley. Bill still had no detectable pulse, however, he was no longer in a shockable rhythm. The crew handed over care to EHAAT’s pre-hospital care doctor Dr Frances Arnold and Critical Care Paramedic Lou Rosson, and Bill was taken to the primary percutaneous coronary intervention (PPCI) centre in Basildon within 14 minutes of their arrival. Dr Fran praised the bystanders’ quick thinking and composed actions which were a testament to their training and dedication.
“They did such a good job to dry Bill’s chest and make sure everything was running smoothly before the crews arrived. This story is also a testament to the EEAST crew, who were able to give us clear information in a concise manner, effectively strengthening the chain of survival. To be able to do that is a real team effort.”
EHAAT’s Centre For Excellence Clinical Academic Fellow, Laurie Phillipson, is Bill’s son-in-law. He kept the crew up to speed with Bill’s remarkable recovery, and was recently invited to tour EHAAT’s North Weald airbase along with his family, where he reunited with EEAST and EHAAT crew members.
Dean Nock, who served as the critical care dispatcher on that fateful day, shared his perspective: “In that moment, the decision was solely mine to send the helicopter. There’s a criteria we follow and if I go out of that, it’s on my shoulders. It’s the second time in a year and a half that I’ve got to meet the patient, and it’s truly heartwarming to see Bill looking fit and healthy again.”
Following this, Louise emphasised the significance of Bill’s story, and the positive impact early intervention can make.
“As part of the Centre For Excellence, the charity is working hard to ensure CPR and AED (defibrillator) training is accessible and available to as many people of Essex and Hertfordshire as possible. We can see that Lewis’ ability to recognise the signs and act quickly turned a potential tragedy into a moment of hope and survival.”