Theresa Winter, an Essex-based specialist cardiac nurse, was fortunately on hand last month to successfully give cardiopulmonary resuscitation to a dog walker who had collapsed in the street.
Ms Winter saved the man’s life while on the way to start her shift at the intensive care ward at the Essex Cardiothoracic Centre (CTC), run by Basildon and Thurrock Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
“It was a beautiful moment when his pulse returned”
By incredible good fortune, she was one of the first people on the scene when 58-year-old Colin Rushen collapsed on White Hart Lane in Chelmsford.
Her expertise saved Mr Rushen from brain damage and possible death and, in another happy coincidence, she was responsible for his care when he was admitted to the CTC later that evening.
Ms Winter explained that she was driving down the road when she saw man lying on the grass verge on the opposite side of the road.
“I did a U-turn and leapt out of the car,” she said. “I did the normal checks on his airways, breathing and circulation; there were signs of agonal breathing with gasps and groaning and he was not conscious.
“I suspected cardiac arrest, and following my basic assessment in the absence of a pulse, I started CPR. During the first cycle he started to show signs of life,” explained Ms Winter.
However, she said that he stopped breathing again after being put in the recovery position, meaning she recommenced CPR until the first responders arrived by car.
“They had a defibrillator and shocked him four times – we had him back by the time the air ambulance team arrived,” she said. “It was a beautiful moment when his pulse returned.”
“Someone must have been looking after me that day”
Mr Rushen, who works as a logistics technician, was subsequently taken to hospital by air, before being referred for by-pass surgery. He also had an internal cardiac defibrillator fitted at the CTC.
Ms Winter, who has worked for the Essex CTC since it opened 10 years ago, said once the Essex and Hertfordshire Air Ambulance arrived she continued on her way to work, having left home early.
“As soon as I had time, I contacted our cardiology ward and found out that Colin had been referred there for an emergency procedure to unblock a blood vessel in his heart,” she said.
“I knew then he would be under my care later. When he was wheeled into the intensive care it felt surreal. Looking at him on the trolley that night, having resuscitated him early that evening at the road side, there was an instant bond, like a family connection,” she added.
Mr Rushen said: “Someone must have been looking after me that day. I keep thinking – what if I had walked a different route, or gone later – Theresa would not have been there.”