The cardiac arrest happened without warning
Clare was looking forward to a long weekend visiting family when she hit the snooze button on her alarm one Friday morning – but the next thing she knew, she was waking up in intensive care. Without warning, the seemingly healthy 38-year-old from Belfast had suffered a cardiac arrest. If her 14-year-old daughter Melissa hadn’t happened to have slept beside her that night, she wouldn’t have lived to tell her tale.
“That night my daughter had slept beside me and in the morning she said she heard me making a gasping sound,” Clare recalled. “She thought I was snoring, and then she realised something was wrong. She tried to wake me up but couldn’t, so she slapped my face to try and get a response.”
CPR lessons at school can save a life
Realising her mum wasn’t breathing, Melissa shouted for Geoff, her dad, who called 999. “They wanted to talk him through CPR but he couldn’t do it,” Clare recounts. “Melissa said, ‘I’ve learned this in school, let me do it.’ So straightaway she and my husband got me off the bed and onto the floor and got on with it and started doing chest compressions. My husband went outside to make sure the ambulance got the right house.”
At just 38, with no prior health problems and no indication that anything was wrong, Clare had no way of predicting what was going to happen to her. But Melissa’s immediate action and refusal to think twice before administering CPR kept her mum clinging to life as the police sped towards their house with a defibrillator. “We were told at the hospital that if Melissa hadn’t bought me time and done CPR immediately I wouldn’t be here now. I dread to think what would have happened if Melissa hadn’t been sleeping next to me that night. It was just meant to be.”
After two weeks in the hospital, and having been fitted with an ICD to give her heart some back-up should it go into a dangerous rhythm again, Clare’s trying to get to the bottom of why her heart failed, but she’ll never forget her pride and gratitude over her daughter’s response. Despite the enormity of the situation and her inexperience, when the stakes were high, Melissa didn’t think twice, she just tried – and her mum lived to tell their story because of it.
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