A woman whose heart stopped beating for at least 28 minutes met the London Ambulance Service crew who saved her life.
Louise Higgs, 59, went into cardiac arrest in August 2022 at her home in Angel. She was saved by London Ambulance Service medics who restarted her heart after more than half an hour of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Since then, Louise’s mother Joan contacted London Ambulance Service to thank those involved in her daughter’s resuscitation and the crews and family have met for an emotional reunion.
Joan said: “I am beyond grateful that these amazing people saved my daughter and my family. I lost my son 13 years ago and one thing’s certain, if Louise hadn’t survived, I would have died too.”
Louise was in her bedroom getting ready to attend an Arsenal football match when she started struggling to breathe.
Her mother immediately called 999 as an operation on Louise’s spine in 2017 – which left her limbs paralysed – meant her airways were already compromised.
Paramedic Ellie Varouhakis and Trainee Assistant Ambulance Practitioner Rachel Walters were the first to arrive at their house, where Louise was still conscious.
Shortly after, Louise’s heart stopped beating and that’s when the crew started delivering life-saving CPR. But Louise’s paralysis meant the medics had to be really careful to not damage her neck further, so they called for another ambulance crew for backup.
As paramedics William Dickinson and Katherine Anderson and Advanced Paramedic Rory Saggers arrived to continue the treatment, Louise’s heart started to beat again. After about half an hour in which Louise’s life was in the balance, she was taken to hospital.
She was first treated at University College London Hospital for four weeks and then at St Thomas’ Hospital for a further three weeks, before she was discharged in good health.
Louise has no recollection of the few hours she spent at the very edge of life but wishes she could remember what it felt like.
She joked: “When I died, it’s not like I wanted to see green fields and gambolling sheep, but at least I expected to see Arsenal winning the Champions League!”
She recently met the paramedics who saved her at her home where she and her mother expressed their gratitude.
Joan said: “Seeing the medics here – in such different circumstances – makes me feel safe.
“This New Year’s, we raised a glass to celebrate the start of another year together and also to celebrate what this brilliant team have done for us.”
Trainee assistant ambulance practitioner Rachel said: “It’s surreal to see Louise alive, well, talking, in the very room where she died a few months before. We got her back to the place where she was before the cardiac arrest: enjoying life with her mother. Her recovery has been incredible and this fills me with joy.”
Paramedic Ellie also said seeing Louise reunited with her family was very touching: “I’ve been doing this job for five years, and I know I’ve saved many lives. But having literally seen the proof that my work has been vital is just extraordinary.”
Less than 10% of people survive a cardiac arrest in London. Chances of survival can increase if CPR is performed on the person as quickly as possible.
Chief Paramedic Dr John Martin said: “We are all incredibly proud of the teams who helped to save Louise, and I am delighted they found an opportunity to be reunited. This is a powerful example of the difference our staff make every day and the care they provide to Londoners.”
Anyone can save a life and London Ambulance Service has been running a London Lifesavers campaign which encourages everyone to learn simple life-saving skills.
It can be just a matter of minutes to learn these skills, but it could make the difference between life and death for someone.
You can learn how to save a life here.