It was a special morning on 30 November when CFA career firefighters from Rowville Fire Station and paramedics were reunited with a man whose life they helped save earlier this year.
Station Officer David Black, Leading Firefighter Peter Decker, Firefighter Matt Dawson, Andrew, Paramedic Kevin White
Emergency Medical Response (EMR) is a joint program between Ambulance Victoria and Victorian fire services where firefighters co-respond with Ambulance Victoria to medical emergencies to help treat unconscious, non-breathing and pulseless patients.
The EMR program is designed to improve survival from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.
On 15 May 2017, Andrew was found by his wife Julie unresponsive in bed. After calling Triple Zero (000), Julie moved Andrew to the floor with the help of their son and started CPR with guidance from the phone operator until emergency services arrived.
First responder and Rowville Station Officer David Black said early intervention is key and the earlier CPR can be started the better.
“Once we arrived on scene our crew of four took over administering CPR from Andrew’s wife and used a defibrillator in attempts to re-establish a pulse,” David said.
Ambulance Victoria paramedics arrived within minutes and worked with CFA firefighters for almost an hour to revive Andrew. He was treated by paramedics and taken by ambulance to hospital for further treatment.
Andrew said the incident came as a shock, particularly considering he had been kicking the football with his son just 40 minutes earlier.
“I was feeling a bit unwell. I just thought that perhaps I was tired so I decided to go to bed and rest,” Andrew said.
“About an hour and a half after going to bed, my wife came to check on me, and that’s when she found me unresponsive.
“If Julie hadn’t checked in on me then and there, I probably wouldn’t be here today. For her to actually check if I was breathing was very lucky.”
Andrew spent 10 days in hospital following the incident, two of those in an induced coma.
The morning tea at Rowville Fire Station was an opportunity for firefighters, paramedics, Andrew and his family to get to know one another and for firefighters and paramedics to explain what happened on the night of the incident.
“It’s great to be involved in a positive outcome, especially when the member of the public involved is willing to make contact,” David said.
“Firefighters take on many and varied roles. If a firefighter arrives at your door for a life-threatening medical emergency, it’s important not to turn them away. Every second counts in emergencies.”
Reflecting on the incident, Andrew said it’s hard to put into words how he feels.
“It’s not very often you get to meet a bunch of people who don’t know you but who saved your life,” Andrew said.
“If the systems weren’t in place for them to be there so quickly, then anything could have happened.
“It’s a really surreal feeling knowing you can be here one minute and not the next.”
Six months on, Andrew said he’s recovering well and is enjoying getting back to the things he loves.
“It’s been great spending time with my family. I’ve been able to get back out on the boat and go fishing with my sons.”
EMR is a Victorian Government funded program that will be rolled out to all CFA’s integrated brigades over three years (2016-19).
“It’s fantastic to see the EMR program being implemented and supported by the Victorian Government,” said David.
“It’s money well spent as far as I'm concerned when we have positive results like we have had with Andrew.”