Pauline saved by CPR!

Nepean Aquatic centre employee Pauline Bentley, 77, is one very lucky lady. After suffering a sudden cardiac arrest and collapsing in Riley St on Friday 22nd May, Pauline was revived by bystanders including an off-duty police officer, an off-duty nurse, and St George bank employee Kayla Kearns, 24, using CPR and First Aid techniques.

During the ambulance journey and upon arrival at Nepean Hospital, Pauline again went into cardiac arrest and needed to be revived by CPR. Often in such cases a defibrillator can also be used to further increase the chance of survival, however Pauline had a “non-shockable” rhythm. In total, Pauline received six rounds of CPR in less than 24 hours. The family were advised after round six on 23rd May that if their beloved mother and grandmother went into cardiac arrest again and required CPR there would be nothing the doctors would be able to do to save her due to the damage to the heart and multiple broken ribs sustained to that point.

By Saturday evening, Pauline was intubated and placed into an induced coma in Intensive Care to provide the best chance of survival. The family were advised that she may not make it through the night, prompting family members to visit and say their good byes, including her youngest son and granddaughter who drove 9 hours through the night from Melbourne.

Incredibly, after being transferred to Westmead Hospital, Pauline went on to survive an 8 hour open heart surgery on 27th May, where 5 bypasses were performed and a heart valve was replaced. On June 3rd Pauline suffered a setback requiring another round of CPR, and another 8 hour surgery for ablation and removal of scar tissue. On the 11th June, Pauline had a further surgery to insert a pacemaker, and was moved to Westmead Hospitals cardiac rehab unit on June 15th. Against all odds, Pauline was discharged on 6th July, 6 and half weeks after her collapse in Penrith, and is now continuing her recovery at home.
Heart disease killed 17,533 Australians in 2018, approximately 48 people every day. Each year in Australia about 20,000 people have a cardiac arrest out of hospital, but only 10 per cent of these people will survive. It takes only three minutes for brain damage to set in and within 10 minutes the person has usually died. In most cases the ambulance will not make it in time.
CPR refers to the actions taken to keep a casualty alive after their breathing and heartbeat has stopped. Resuscitation and early intervention can mean the difference between life and death, as giving breaths and compressions to a non-breathing patient pushes air into the lungs which then puts oxygen into the blood stream, reducing the risk of brain damage. Experts estimate the number of Australians with training in CPR is around five percent.

Pauline Bentley was extremely lucky to be attended to by not 1, but 3 bystanders trained in CPR. Kayla Kearns, 24, an employee at St George Bank in Penrith, was returning from her lunch break when she witnessed Pauline collapse, and ran across the road to assist. Having first learnt CPR at the age of 17, Miss Kearns has renewed her qualification every year since, and despite having used first aid many times in the workplace, this was the first occasion that she was required to use CPR. Pauline was not breathing, so whilst the off duty nurse kept her head (which was bleeding from the fall) and neck immobilised, Kayla and the off duty police officer directed that an ambulance be called, administered compressions and monitored Pauline’s vital signs. During the time prior to the paramedics arrival, Kayla was unable to feel any radial pulse for approximately 4 minutes, and Pauline’s breathing was sporadic.

Pauline has always led a fit and active lifestyle, participating in Aquarobic’s classes for 16 years, attending Pilates on a weekly basis for the past 14 years, and walking approximately 4 kms up to 4 times per week. In the proceeding weeks leading to her collapse, Pauline had been feeling a little unwell, with slight symptoms including shortness of breath, and had been tested for Covid19, with a negative result. It has since come to light that she had suffered a minor heart attack some time before the major incident, which in hindsight Pauline realises explains some shoulder & armpit pain she had experienced. Pauline credits the many years of exercise to date being a large factor in her survival, and is already back to it, walking 20 minutes non stop on 24th July, just 2 months after her collapse. This week sees Pauline start 6 weekly cardio exercise sessions at Nepean Hospital.

Minor heart attack symptoms can include chest pain, which may last several minutes or come and go, discomfort in the upper back, jaw, neck, upper extremities (one or both) and/or the stomach and feeling lightheaded and/or nauseous. It is important to consult your doctor if you ever experience one of more of these symptoms.

When I asked Kayla what she would say to anyone thinking of learning CPR she said “It’s a really good idea, just in case something goes wrong – you don’t know if you might ever need it. And be sure to keep your qualification up to date”.

Pauline Bentley has had a valid CPR qualification for more than 20 years, as it is a requirement of her work as a receptionist at Nepean Aquatic Centre, the business run by her son and daughter in law, Alan and Karen Bentley. When asked about his mothers collapse Mr Bentley said, “We are just so grateful that the people who were there at the time knew CPR – otherwise the outcome may have been very different, and doesn’t bear thinking about”.

When asked about her ordeal, Pauline is upbeat, grateful to have very little recollection of many of the details, saying “ I remember waking up with a metal tube down my throat, looking at the ceiling, and wondering where I was and if I was awake or dreaming?”. She acknowledges that her survival can be attributed in many ways to very fortunate circumstances – the fact that her collapse happened in public, rather than at home where she lives alone, in front of bystanders who had the training to help, and the fact that she was even in Australia at the time, as if it were not for Covid 19 travel restrictions she would have been overseas, away from family and the Australian medical system.

When asked what she would like to say to the people who came to her aid, Pauline said “words cannot describe how grateful I am to them, because without them I wouldn’t be here”.

Congratulations to Pauline on her miraculous recovery!

CPR courses with an accredited Royal Life Saving Australia trainer are run at Nepean Aquatic Centre monthly – all details on the website. Would you know what to do in an emergency?