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On a scorching January day, Jane Brunton was half way through her interclub doubles match at the Waikato Tennis Centre in Hamilton. As she waited for the next serve from her opponent Gail Vinning, something unexpected happened.
“I looked over the net and saw Gail slowly crumpling onto the ground. It was rather graceful, really. But I knew something was obviously wrong”, recalls Jane.
The players, as well as those on nearby courts and in the clubroom, were quick to respond. Jane, a registered nurse and clinical tutor, was able to quickly put her experience into practice.
“A group of us rolled her onto her side, and I went through the first aid ABCs. Someone got a wet towel and put it under her head, and someone else got an umbrella to keep the sun off her. It was hot day, and a hard court, so everyone came together to make sure Gail was OK.”
Gail stopped breathing and began to turn blue. Jane started CPR.
“I’d been part of resuscitations before, but never on my own. And never in the community. But, I had a lot of help around me. One of them had brought the defibrillator over.”
AEDs to the rescue
With the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) pads attached to Gail’s chest, the voice prompts on the device advised that a shock would be delivered.
“The defibrillator said ‘stand back’ and so I told everyone to get back. Then I realised I was still in the CPR position. So I had to get out of the way myself,” says Jane.
The Cardiac Science G5 AED delivered one shock to Gail, then prompted the rescuers to continue CPR.
“As I was doing CPR again, Gail came around and started to try to push me off”, said Jane.
The relieved rescuers put Gail into the recovery position and kept her calm as they waited for the ambulance to arrive.
Later that evening Gail was able to text Jane and thank her for saving her life. But Jane is quick to point out that it was far from a solo effort.
“I told her it wasn’t just me. It was a whole group of people who reacted to what was happening, and did what needed to be done. I’m particularly grateful that someone had the presence of mind to get the defibrillator and bring it to us. That was critical.”
Speaking of that defibrillator, New Zealand Red Cross First Aid team proudly celebrates every AED rescue, but this one will always be particularly memorable for Lena Freiberg, New Zealand Red Cross’ First Aid Products Coordinator.
Only a few days earlier, the Waikato club’s AED had begun beeping – signalling a possible fault had occurred. The club had contacted Lena to clarify the problem.
“I couldn’t tell what the exact problem was over the phone, but because we always want to have every community AED in what we call ‘rescue ready’ condition, I immediately sent out a loan device on an overnight courier,” explains Lena.
The loan AED was switched out with the club’s device within a matter of hours. And it was the loan AED that delivered the shock that saved Gail’s life.
“The original AED might have just had a minor issue, and chances are it could have functioned perfectly well in the rescue. We don’t know. And who wants to take that chance?”
The fact the replacement device got to the club in time for the save will always be a special memory for Lena and New Zealand Red Cross’ products team.
“It is always a such a great feeling to hear that one of our devices has saved a life. Everyone has a spring in their step around the office. This one gave us an even bigger spring in some ways, because it was a reminder of why we work so hard on our maintenance programme and our service processes.”
Remarkably, just a few months later, Gail was back playing tennis on the very same courts where Jane and the others rescued her during that fateful interclub match. As for the match, itself, Jane filled us in on the official outcome.
“We did a count back of the games we’d both won, and it turned out we were exactly even. So, it was marked as a draw—which I’ll take because they’re a good team!”
For anyone keeping score at home, New Zealand Red Cross First Aid is more than happy to mark everyone a winner.
Know what to do
When a person suffers a cardiac arrest, their chances of surviving drop 10% every minute that passes before they receive a defibrillator shock. The more automated external defibrillators (AEDs) we can place in our communities, the more lives we can save.
New Zealand Red Cross has the leading community AED programme in New Zealand. We are also the only organisation to offer an AED rental option.