‘Proud to wear our uniform’: St John paramedics reunite with young cardiac arrest survivor
Ben Aldred pictured with the team from St John WA who helped save his life.
Paramedics treat hundreds of people every year, and it is not often they are reunited with their patients once an emergency has passed.
Even more rare is a reunion with someone whose survival has defied all the odds.
The first time St John WA’s Kat Sobczyk met Ben Aldred she was at work.
Having been called to a Priority 1 cardiac arrest incident, the paramedic had some idea of what to expect.
But there was nothing ‘normal’ about this particular incident.
The first time Kat laid eyes on Ben, the 18-year-old was not conscious, not breathing, and was developing cyanosis, meaning he was turning blue.
Having suffered a potentially lethal cardiac arrest, Ben was being kept alive only by his uncle’s CPR efforts until St John crews arrived five minutes later.
Attending the scene along with Kat was David Hyatt and Callum Lloyd-Watters – both ambulance officers – and clinical support paramedic Ben Robinson.
State Operations Centre communications officer Jess Simpson took the Triple Zero (000) call.
Between them all, they kept the teenager, who is a rising cricket star from the UK, alive until they got to Joondalup Health Campus, but none were optimistic about Ben’s chances of survival.
Ben spent two days in a coma, and it was unclear what, if any, damage had been done to his brain.
When Ben woke up though, not only was he alive, he presented as largely unscathed following his ordeal.
Kat said cases like Ben’s were “incredibly rare”, with the chances of an athlete experiencing a cardiac arrest just two in 100,000.
“I’ve been in the job nearly 14 years and I’ve actually never witnessed this before,” she said.
“I’ve unfortunately gone to lots of jobs where a patient has been in cardiac arrest and they have not survived.
“Even if we do manage to get somebody to hospital with a heart rate and a blood pressure, quite often they will not walk out of hospital without some kind of neuro deficits.
“It’s very humbling for us and makes us all very proud to wear our uniform.”
Since the incident, Ben is recovering well.
He is still undergoing tests to try to find out what caused his cardiac arrest, but he is thankful to be alive.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for these people, which is incredible every time I say it,” Ben said.
“To be completely honest, it’s quite emotional as well to be able to have the chance to talk to [the St John officers].
“All I want to say is for as many people to learn CPR as possible.”
After a cardiac arrest, for every minute that passes without intervention – CPR and the use of a defibrillator – the chance of survival drops by 10 per cent.
Anyone can learn CPR and other first aid skills through St John.
Go to https://stjohnwa.com.au/first-aid-training for more information.