A woman working in an ambulance control room helped save the life of a man who suffered a heart attack miles away from her - by telling a passerby what to do over the phone.
Building surveyor Peter Williams, 69, was running to catch a train to London from Billingshurst Station when he collapsed with a cardiac arrest.
Passerby Jim Burroughs was out for an early morning stroll from his home in the village when he heard a commotion and ran to see what was happeing.
He found Peter motionless and barely breathing lying in the road and immediately rang 999 for help.
What followed was a phone call Jim will never forget and which saved Peter’s life.
Lauren McCracken was on duty that day in the ambulance control centre at Lewes when she received Jim’s call. As she spoke to him it became clear that Peter had stopped breathing altogether and needed life support in the form of CPR -cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Jim, who thought Peter was beyond help, was encouraged by Lauren to start chest compressions as she instructed and counted a regular ‘1-2-3’ rhythm and urged him not to stop or slow down until the paramedics arrived.
Jim said: “Giving chest compressions was really exhausting but even though I had had a shoulder operation a couple of weeks before I do not remember it being a problem.
“The adrenaline kicked in and I just kept going while listening to Lauren’s voice and her calm and clear instructions.”
Peter said: “I don’t remember anything about what happened on the day but I am so grateful that Jim was there and took it upon himself to help me.
“When we met afterwards I learned that Jim nearly gave up on me and he said he may have stopped had it not been for Lauren’s determination and encouragement.”
And last week, three months after Peter’s heart attack, Peter and Jim met up with Lauren in Lewes to thank her personally for what she did.
Lauren said after the poignant get together: “I was overwhelmed to see Peter and Jim standing there in front of me. It really has put my job into perspective and is a real reminder that what I and my colleagues do here saves lives.
“I could not have done it without Jim making the call in the first place so I want to thank him too. When I heard that Peter had written in to make contact, I knew somehow it was about this call, I had not forgotten either of them.”
When Peter was discharged from hospital, he was back at work surveying buildings the next day. “Climbing the scaffold was an effort at first,” he said, “but I have now re-joined my veteran walking group.
“My short-term memory is not as sharp but I am a very lucky man.”
Sudden cardiac arrest claims the lives of thousands of people every year. When a person has a cardiac arrest, survival depends on immediately getting CPR from someone nearby.
CPR, especially if performed in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, provides patients with the best chance of survival and recovery.