At 12.20pm on Wednesday 13 June 2018 a civilian contractor working in Wellington Barracks collapsed on the Inner Square suffering a cardiac arrest. Mr William Denton, 43, a MOD civil servant from Salisbury, who works as a Physiotherapist at the Army barracks in central Westminster, London, was on his way to use the gym on camp when he saw a man look as though he was choking, and he rushed to his aid. “When I got to him, his eyes rolled, his head went back and he passed out, his heart had stopped, he was effectively dead,” said William, whose Ministry of Defence First Aid Training immediately kicked in. “I went into autopilot and started administering Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation – CPR and shouted for a defibrillator. I worked on him for around four minutes then they brought the kit and I administered two shocks. I’d used a defibrillator in training on a dummy, but never on a real person before, so it’s quite a thing to realise that you’re actually deliberately electrocuting someone!”
Sergeant Melissa Weeks, 45, from Bournemouth is a member of the Military Provost Guard Service at Wellington Barracks and was on duty that day in the Guard Room when she heard the news that someone had collapsed on base. After an initial military career in the RAF, Melissa had retrained as a first responder with the South West Ambulance Service before joining the Army in 2002 and coming to work in London. Despite her change of career Melissa, like all service personnel, is trained regularly in basic life support and she had just completed a First Aid at Work Course. She took over CPR from William as soon as she arrived on the scene until the ambulance arrived and the paramedics took over.
“I had to deal with instances such as this dozens of times when I was in SW Ambulance Service,” said Melissa, “but it’s different when you’re suddenly working on your own without backup, oxygen and a team supporting you. The pressure is really on.”
The casualty was rushed to St Thomas’s Hospital for follow up medical treatment and William and Melissa went back to work.
Both Army staff were awarded commendations this week for what had proved to be life-saving actions. A statement to the London Central Garrison Commander from Mr Mark Faulkner, Advanced Paramedic Practitioner, (Critical Care) London Ambulance Service, was read out at the ceremony in Horse Guards, Whitehall, which put into context how impressive their combined actions had been on that day:
“The CPR that was being performed was to the highest quality, I cannot overemphasise how exemplary the quality of the resuscitation being undertaken was. To the extent despite not having a beating heart, the perfusion to the brain being supplied by the chest compressions was so effective the patient had his eyes open and was moving. This absolutely demonstrates how effective the resuscitation attempt was. This effect of CPR is reported in the medical literature but rarely seen."
“I manage around 150 cardiac arrest patients each year, this is some of the most effective resuscitation I have seen performed, at the right depth, right rate and despite the awareness of the patient, minimal interruptions. Following further defibrillation, the patient regained a sustained spontaneous circulation and was transported to St Thomas’ Hospital, sedated and ventilated."
“The overall survival of cardiac arrest pan London is less than ten per cent, without resuscitation the chances of survival decrease by between 10 and 22 per cent per minute without treatment. Although the patient has a long road to recovery, I am very sure that without the prompt and effective actions of your staff, the outcome would have been very different”.
The British Army trains service personnel and civilians to deliver their best, wherever they may be, to be ready to step forward and demonstrate courage, and a quick, appropriate and professional response to whatever life throws their way.