Leyland cardiac arrest survivor meets community first responder who saved her life

A woman whose heart stopped beating has met the fire service first responder and paramedics who saved her life.
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Diane Fenton went into cardiac arrest at her home in Leyland in January 2023. She was in her living room when she suddenly collapsed and became unresponsive. Her husband immediately dialled 999 and began chest compressions, something Diane had taught him from working as a support worker.

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service’s first ever community first responder, Andy Dow, was the first to arrive on scene. Community first responders are trained to provide life-saving treatment to patients in the vital first few minutes of an emergency until ambulance crews arrive. Andy acted quickly and began delivering life-saving CPR.

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Approximately five minutes after Andy’s arrival, Paramedics Gregory Hasting, Harry Hopkins, Katrina Haygarth and Senior Paramedic Andrew Graham arrived to continue providing advanced life support to Diane.

Diane Fenton with NWAS crews and community first responder Andy Dow. (Photo by Lancashire Fire & Rescue Service)Diane Fenton with NWAS crews and community first responder Andy Dow. (Photo by Lancashire Fire & Rescue Service)
Diane Fenton with NWAS crews and community first responder Andy Dow. (Photo by Lancashire Fire & Rescue Service)

Andy and the paramedics continued working on Diane before she was taken to Royal Preston Hospital to be stabilised and then onto Blackpool Victoria Hospital to have heart surgery.

Diane said: “If it wasn’t for Andy and the paramedics, the outcome could have been a lot different.

Two weeks after her cardiac arrest and hospital admittance, Diane was back home with her husband - fully recovered. She returned to work and has since been to visit Andy at Leyland Fire Station to thank him for saving her life.

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“Andy has been absolutely fantastic. He’s come to my house two or three times since it happened and asked how I am.”

“How can you say thank you to someone who’s saved your life? This for me, to come to Leyland Fire Station and say thank you to all of them, it means a lot,” she said.

In the UK there are over 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCA) a year where emergency services attempt to resuscitate the person. However, the survival rate is low – less than one in 10 people in the UK survive an OHCA.

Chances of survival can increase if CPR is performed on the person as quickly as possible.

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Andy said he has always wanted to help people and his passion for helping his community inspired him to train to be a first responder, having been involved with St John’s Ambulance since he was six-years-old.

He said: “I wanted to be able to give back to the community, so I became a community first responder to take that further step and help more people.

“I have that passion to help others and jobs like this is what it’s all about. It also proves that early access to CPR and a defibrillator can make that all important difference and ultimately save lives.”

Andy added: “I encourage more people to learn CPR and how to use a defibrillator.”

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Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service is running a trial involving non-operational staff volunteering as community first responders, supporting North West Ambulance Service.

Volunteers respond to life threatening emergencies in their communities from the workplace and administer first aid in the initial vital minutes before North West Ambulance Service colleagues arrive. The partnership aims to save lives in Lancashire’s communities.

Andy and Diane are the first guests in Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service's brand-new podcast series, Out of the Ashes: Stories from Lancashire. You can listen to the episode here.

Anyone can save a life and it can be just a matter of minutes to learn these skills. It could make the difference between life and death for someone.

You can learn how to save a life here.