AN OFF-duty paramedic who gave CPR to his own wife after her sudden cardiac arrest has recounted the extraordinary ordeal.
Phil Wilkins gave chest compressions and rescue breaths to his wife of 20 years, Cerys, after she collapsed without warning at their Pentrebach home the Friday before last.
The couple’s teenage daughter called 999 and summoned Phil’s Welsh Ambulance Service colleagues, who helped to resuscitate the 48-year-old nurse.
The mum-of-two is now on the road to recovery, and the family are urging everyone to learn life-saving CPR.
Phil, a paramedic of 16 years, said: “At not one point through the whole ordeal did I think of it as my wife.
“Instinct and training kicked in, and I just did what I had to do.
“It was only when the ambulance crew arrived did I take a step back – that’s when I fell to pieces.”
The couple and their two children – daughter Ella, 18, and son Coel, 15 – had enjoyed a small gathering in their back garden to celebrate Ella’s birthday.
As the family were retiring for bed, Cerys collapsed on the landing.
“We’d just watched an episode of Coronation Street and were getting ready for bed,” said Phil, 50.
“Cerys went to say goodnight to the children, and that’s when I heard a thud on the landing.
“I recognised straight away what was happening so I asked Ella to call 999, and that’s when I began CPR.”
Listen here to the 999 call made by Ella Wilkins for her mother Cerys.
Cerys, a school nurse, said: “I’d been to say goodnight to the kids and had gone to get some ironing.
“The next thing I remember was being in the back of an ambulance, and Phil and the kids were looking at me upset.
“I still can’t quite believe what happened, even now.”
As a teenager, Cerys was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), a condition where your heart suddenly beats much faster than normal.
Six years ago, she underwent a procedure called an ‘ablation’ to fix the problem.
“But there was still no warning before I collapsed,” said Cerys.
“No pain, palpitations or dizziness. I literally just went down.”
When someone has a cardiac arrest, they collapse and become unresponsive.
They either stop breathing entirely, or they may take gasping or infrequent breaths for a few minutes.
If you see someone having a cardiac arrest, phone 999 immediately and start CPR.
It took six minutes for Phil’s colleagues to arrive on scene, where they delivered a shock to Cerys with a defibrillator which re-started her heart.
She was taken to Cardiff’s University Hospital of Wales, where she is still undergoing treatment and tests.
It is hoped that Cerys, a former paediatric nurse at the hospital, will this week be fitted with a pacemaker and defibrillator before her discharge on the weekend.
Phil, a paramedic and clinical team leader based in Merthyr Tydfil, has thanked the Welsh Ambulance Service colleagues who came to his wife’s rescue.
He said: “I think it probably got quite heated on the 999 call but it was distressing, especially for the children, and a million things go through your head.
“On behalf of the whole family, I’d like to thank my colleagues for their speedy response and professionalism – from the call handler to the allocator, to the paramedics and the doctors in the Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service.
“It was an amazing team effort, and we’re so grateful for everything they did.”
Cerys added: “I’ve been so well looked after by the Welsh Ambulance Service and the Emergency Department and Cardiology teams at the University Hospital of Wales.
“Words can’t express my gratitude – thank you is not enough.”
This month, the Welsh Ambulance Service is celebrating its annual Shoctober campaign, which encourages people to learn CPR.
Phil said: “Every second counts when someone has a cardiac arrest, and what happened to Cerys just goes to show that it can happen to anyone, at any time.
“I obviously knew what to do because of my profession, but imagine if I’d have not been there.
“By taking a few minutes to learn some basic CPR skills, you can also save someone’s life.”