Tauranga cardiac arrest survivor shares ‘miracle’ story

A woman sprinting hundreds of metres in high heels helped save Peter Hall’s life.

The mental image of the mystery woman, running frantically to get help, brings the 53-year-old cardiac-arrest survivor close to tears.

Hall was out for his regular morning run around Gordon Carmichael Reserve when he went into cardiac arrest on October 20.

People driving past quickly came to help Hall, who was lying on the ground unresponsive.

Two, Brian Rickey and Dunia Mouneimne, started CPR straight away.

“I just jumped straight in there and did the chest compressions, and Dunia was working to keep his airways open,” said Rickey.

Rickey said during this time, an unidentified woman wearing high heels ran hundreds of metres down the road to seek help from off-duty paramedic Rueben Merrett.

The woman started to kick on Merrett’s door, calling out for help while he was on the toilet. She knew he was a paramedic because a St John vehicle was parked in his driveway.

Rueben rolled up to the scene in his singlet, shorts and jandals and went to help Hall. An ambulance arrived shortly after.

“It is really hard to piece together, but we just kept on going until Rueben and the team showed up,” said Rickey.

It wasn’t until months later Rueben realised he knew Hall from when both of their sons went to Bethlehem School together.

Merrett said “shit-hot” CPR performed by Rickey and Mouneimne helped resuscitate Hall. Both had previously completed first aid courses.

“If these guys didn’t do what they did, Pete wouldn’t be standing here today. Us flying in as we did would have been too late.

“And Pete recovered as well as he did because of these guys.

“There was no electricity, just lots of good CPR. A stubborn, young, fit fella like Pete isn’t ready to give up yet,” he said.

Rickey said he was “humming along” to the song Staying Alive by the Bee Gees to keep to time the chest compressions on Hall.

Hall couldn’t quite put into words how “very, very grateful” he was without tearing up.

“The sequence of events that morning amazes me. We joke about the lady in high heels, but she saved my life the same as everyone else.”

Hall said after going into cardiac he lost a “little bit” of his memory and now has to take about 50 pills a week.

But he described his survival as a “miracle” and said it was thanks to the efforts of Rickey, Mouneimne and all the paramedics involved.

“I can pretty much say I am as good as I was beforehand.”

His wife, Pip, said the “quick action” from everybody on October 20 was incredible.

When he was first put into the intensive care unit at Tauranga Hospital, staff told Pip there was a chance he could have brain damage.

“The fact that he can walk, talk and is back at work. If you guys hadn’t acted so quickly – he might be alive, but he certainly wouldn’t be the man we have got sitting here now.”

The pair said Peter’s cardiac arrest had reminded them of the importance of first aid education.

“Look at the difference you have made to this person, his wife, his family and his future. You had a choice, but you got stuck in and you did it.

“I am here because of these people,” Hall said.

Merrett said reunions with patients were “very humbling”, but they didn’t happen often enough.

“Peter was definitely at the right place at the right time, but doing the wrong thing. All the dots lined up – and that’s why we have the outcome we have today.”

Heart Foundation medical director Dr Gerry Devlin said New Zealand should work towards becoming a nation of lifesavers.

“What we mean by that is all New Zealanders knowing how to do CPR, and all New Zealanders know how to use AEDs.”

Devlin said for every minute that passes after having a cardiac arrest, a person’s chance of survival decreases 10 per cent.

He urged the public not to ignore chest discomfort, particularly before exercising, and report it to a health professional.

“That may well be angina. And that early onset of angina may lead to a heart attack or cardiac arrest.”

St John is trying to raise $1.8 million in their Heart of Gold annual appeal, which kicks off on Monday. The money raised will go towards replenishing equipment and hopefully a new Generation 4 emergency ambulance.

People can make donations at heartofgold.org.nz or by calling 0800 ST JOHN.

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