An 18-year-old jumped into action to save the life of her mother’s partner when he suffered a cardiac arrest at their home in Kingsbury.
Geraldo Folie, 59, and his partner Patricia had just arrived back at their home in Brent, after visiting his mum for Mother’s Day. He felt hot, light-headed and experienced a shortness of breath.
Patricia went upstairs to get a wet cloth to put over his head. When she returned, Geraldo was unconscious on the sofa and had gone into cardiac arrest.
Patricia shouted for help and her daughter Olivia rushed downstairs. Recognising the signs of cardiac arrest, which included gasping for air, Olivia dialled 999.
London Ambulance Service (LAS) call handler Katie Smith answered her call. Dispatching an ambulance immediately, she calmly helped Olivia perform chest compressions to keep Geraldo alive while the medics were on their way. Olivia moved him onto the floor so he was flat on his back and started pumping his chest.
“One, two, three, four,” Katie counted out loud on the phone as Olivia firmly pressed down with the heel of her hand on the breastbone in the centre of Geraldo’s chest, clasping both hands together. She pumped his chest hard and fast, at least twice per second and two inches deep.
Early cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and use of a defibrillation can more than double someone’s chances of survival, which can be done by a member of the public before the ambulance service arrives.
Katie said: “Good, effective chest compressions are a vital link in the chain of survival.
“Olivia undoubtedly played a major role in saving Geraldo’s life by staying calm, following instructions over the phone, and by continuing to focus on delivering CPR until the crew could take over. I would urge everyone to learn the basics about what to do in an emergency situation – it could literally mean the difference between life and death.”
Paramedics Hercules De Bruyn and Mohammed Khan were the first on scene, arriving at the property in a matter of minutes.
They took over resuscitation efforts and applied pads from their defibrillator onto Geraldo’s chest. Due to Geraldo’s critical condition, it took Hercules and Mohammed four electric shocks from their defibrillator to restart his heart.
Mark Faulkner, consultant paramedic and clinical lead for resuscitation at LAS, said:
“Olivia was incredibly brave and performed really effective chest compressions. Around 75% of cardiac arrests take place in the home or at a private address. That why it’s so important that everyone, including young people, are taught life-saving skills to step in and save the life of a loved one. These simple skills can be learned in a few minutes.
“Those first moments are crucial with chances of survival dropping rapidly with every minute. When the patient is without resuscitation every second counts and Oliva’s training from the Scouts and her quick thinking were key in saving Geraldo’s life.”
Hercules and Mohammed took Geraldo to a specialist cardiac centre at Hammersmith Hospital where it was found that Geraldo had abnormal muscle growth in his heart, which caused his cardiac arrest.
Geraldo has been fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), a tiny device just like the one used by the ambulance service, which will automatically shock his heart back into a normal rhythm if this ever happens again.
Geraldo said: “If it wasn’t for Olivia and Patricia, I wouldn’t be here. They both helped me to stay on the border until I received that shock.
“I would also like to say thank you to the paramedics who saved my life. The crews were exceptionally professional.”
Geraldo, who has travelled the world and loves playing tennis and badminton, is making a good recovery and hopes to start travelling again soon. This week, he was well enough to visit London Ambulance Service’s HQ with his family to thank the people who saved his life in an emotional face-to-to-face reunion.
Olivia, now an athlete who plays football and basketball, added: “Speaking to Katie really helped. I think the most important thing is to be patient and listen to what the call handler has to say. I’m very proud of what I did and it was a very difficult experience to go through but the outcome was definitely worth it.”
London Ambulance Service is running a London Lifesavers campaign which encourages everyone to learn simple life-saving skills. To find out more, visit the website here.