25th Sep 2020
My name is Sarah, and this is my husband Saroj’s remarkable survival story. As Christmas approaches, we are grateful that we can enjoy this time together, thanks to the amazing medical teams that came to our aid when we needed them most. We hope that sharing our story we inspire you to support Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex (KSS) today.
If I hadn’t been at home the outcome could have been very different. I remember that October day vividly. I had returned from a business trip the night before so was working at home. Saroj had a week off and had been to the gym. When he came home we had lunch together, it was a completely ordinary morning. Shortly after lunch Saroj said he felt like he had indigestion, so I dug out some tablets for him and kept working. He went to the bathroom, and that’s when I heard a strange thud.
Something didn’t sound right about that noise. Thankfully the door was unlocked. I found Saroj out cold on the bathroom floor; his eyes had rolled back and his body had twisted strangely as he fell. I ran to call an ambulance and was told over the phone how to give CPR. I didn’t realise at the time, but I was doing this for ten minutes before the first ambulance arrived; I was getting tired and very anxious.
Suddenly there were people all around me. The first responders took over CPR from me, and the air ambulance crew followed. Saroj didn’t respond to the CPR or the defibrillator. He’d gone into cardiac arrest, what I know now is that is usually fatal.
It looked gruesome – Saroj’s chest was being pummelled mechanically. The KSS team decided to attach the LUCAS machine, which delivers chest compressions mechanically. We were lucky, because the air ambulance had only recently got the machine. It was critical in maintaining CPR whilst Saroj was moved to a land ambulance with the KSS team in attendance and up to St George’s Hospital in London. Just before we got to the hospital, his heart restarted.
I had no idea what the future now held. Saroj was taken straight through to have a stent fitted to unblock the main artery of his heart. After eight hours I was allowed to see him; I think only because they thought there was a good chance he wouldn’t make it. When I returned the next morning I was told to prepare for the worst as there was nothing more they could do. Things looked pretty bleak. Then we were told Saroj was a viable candidate for a new form of life support called Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO). There are two kinds of ECMO machine, one performs the function of the lungs outside of the body, and the other performs the heart’s function. Saroj’s condition was so severe that he required both machines.
At one point it looked like Christmas would be a complete non-event for me. Saroj spent eight weeks in hospital. He was in intensive care and didn’t regain consciousness for over a month; by that point he had lost two stone in weight and suffered from muscle wastage where he had been still for so long. He required intense physiotherapy before he was fit to leave hospital.
Saroj was discharged in the first week of December, just in time for Christmas. It was so nice to have him home; I’m immensely grateful to everyone who helped make that happen. Without Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex I have no doubt that my husband would not be here today. In these truly challenging times, KSS need our support more than ever.