“I was extremely lucky to have the help of everyone involved, and I will be forever grateful.”
Taking early action and providing good CPR can make a real difference to whether someone survives, especially for medical emergencies such as cardiac arrest, where the chance of survival is low. Longtime EHAAT supporter and former police officer Martin Challis (79) and his family know the importance of early bystander intervention all too well.
On Tuesday, 15th September 2022, Martin visited The Gym Group on New London Road for his usual cross-trainer workout when he suddenly collapsed and went into cardiac arrest.
Sam Sadegian, a fourth-year medical student, was one of the first bystanders on the scene, having just completed his workout on the floor below.
“I looked up and saw Martin on the floor with a puddle of blood around his head. There were two personal trainers and two members of the public surrounding him. His face was purple, his neck veins were very distended, his eyes were rolling back, and he was struggling to breathe, so I felt his pulse, and he didn’t have one. We rolled Martin onto his back from the recovery position and started chest compressions immediately.”
Sam asked one of the personal trainers to bring a defibrillator and explained where to put the pads on Martin’s chest whilst another bystander – an off-duty nurse continued providing high-quality CPR. Sam began a primary survey, and after several minutes, Martin’s pulse and breathing returned.
Sam was due to be at his medical placement on the day of Martin’s cardiac arrest, but he was given the morning off by his tutor and planned to visit the gym before heading to the library for revision.
“If you ask any medical student, it’s a situation that can be immensely daunting, but I know all too well every second counts. For me, it felt like a tunnel vision event where you just forget about everything other than what you’ve been trained to do.”
The ambulance crew were next to arrive on the scene, managing Martin’s airway, remaining in communication with the critical care desk (CCD), and The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) provided clinical support and helped with extrication.
Essex & Herts Air Ambulance’s critical care team arrived via helicopter less than 15 minutes after receiving the call, having landed in Central Park. Pre-hospital Care Doctor Dr Fran Arnold and Consultant Dr Rob Broomhead quickly reassessed Martin whilst Critical Care Paramedic James Samouelle managed the scene. The teams worked together on the scene to optimise Martin’s outcome. The decision was made to airlift him to The Royal London Hospital, where he was transferred to a major trauma centre for ongoing treatment. Dr Fran Arnold said the quick actions from Sam and fellow members of the public were essential in Martin’s chain of survival.
“We would like to thank the members of the public and gym staff who acted quickly, undertaking CPR, calling 999 and using the defibrillator. We can do a lot of eventuality planning, such as providing an anaesthetic or carrying out a specific procedure. We have our helicopters and RRVs, enabling us to bring the hospital to the patient, however, what Sam did on the day was absolutely invaluable in helping Martin. That early bystander CPR – we just cannot emphasise it enough.”
Martin’s wife Gill was approximately 100 yards away from the incident when she was contacted by the police.
Gill said: “I received a call from a neighbour, and I thought it was going to be related to the house alarm going off, but she quickly put a policeman on the phone. He told me Martin had an accident in the gym and asked me if I could get there. I was literally just along the road, no more than one hundred yards, and as I approached the gym, I couldn’t believe how many ambulances and police cars there were.”
With the ambulance crew assisting EHAAT and transferring Martin across the field to the helicopter, Gill was taken to the Royal London Hospital. She said: “When they took me in to see him, he didn’t look well, but I could see he was with us.”
Martin was initially treated at The Royal London Hospital for a head injury, having fallen back onto the floor when he’d collapsed, but a CT scan showed no fracture. He was then transferred to Barts Heart Centre and discharged 11 days later with an ICD fitted. Just weeks later, he reunited with Sam, members of the ambulance crew, EHAAT’s Dr Fran Arnold and Patient & Family Liaison Officer Helen Goodwin at our North Weald airbase.
Martin said: “I’ve been an EHAAT supporter and Flight for Life Lottery player for over ten years. In previous jobs, I was always moving around the country, so I always knew the importance of having an air ambulance service nearby. I was extremely lucky to have the help of everyone involved, and I will be forever grateful. I want to thank Sam, the gym staff, members of the public, the ambulance crew and EHAAT’s critical care team for their quick thinking and the care that saved my life. It was emotional seeing everyone come together at the North Weald airbase, and it’s a day Gill and I will never forget.”
Sam added: “It’s a humbling experience to step in and help, but there are many people who worked together in order to give Martin the best chance of survival. I’m just glad the outcome has been as good as it has been. It’s been great seeing Martin again, especially now that he’s returned to good health!”