Woman ‘dies’ for 30 mins as her heart stops in ‘surreal’ emergency

A woman whose heart stopped for half an hour was saved by paramedics in a “surreal” medical miracle. Louise Higgs, 59, went into cardiac arrest at her home in Angel, London, for 28 minutes until her heart was restarted after non-stop CPR.

Recently the first responders were reunited with Ms Higgs in the same room where she “died”. They described how shocked they were that Ms Higgs is still alive and well.

Trainee Assistant Ambulance Practitioner Rachel Walters said: “It’s surreal to see Louise alive, well, talking, in the very room where she died a few months before.

Ms Higgs was in her bedroom getting ready to attend an Arsenal game when she started struggling to breathe in August last year.

After a 999 call from Ms Higgs’s mother, Joan, first responders Paramedic Ellie Varouhakis and Ms Walters rushed to the house, where Louise was still conscious. 

Her airways were already compromised by a spine operation she had in 2017, which left her limbs paralysed.

Shortly after the ambulance arrived, Ms Higgs’s heart stopped beating. The crew started to give Louise CPR but because of her lifeless limbs, the paramedics had to be careful not to create further damage and brought in a second paramedic crew for help.

Fortunately, before the backup paramedics arrived, Ms Higgs’s heart started to beat again within half an hour of stopping.

Today, Ms Higgs has no recollection of the events although she wishes she could remember.

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!”

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Ms Higgs was treated at University College London Hospital for four weeks and at St Thomas’ Hospital for another three.

Ms Walters said: “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 Varouhakis, a first responder of five years, said it was “extraordinary” to see proof her work has been “vital” in saving lives.

More than 90 per cent of Londoners that experience cardiac arrest dies, according to London Ambulance Service.

But the chances of surviving increase if CPR is performed as quickly as possible.

Mark Faulkner, Consultant Paramedic at London Ambulance Service, told Express.co.uk: “When a patient is in cardiac arrest, every second counts. The chance of them surviving is entirely dependent on the rapid actions of others. This includes commencing chest compressions and applying a defibrillator promptly.

“Chances of survival decrease for every second that a patient is left without chest compressions.

“Louise’s story is exceptional, and only serves to highlight the importance of both rapid and effective chest compressions.”

“When a patient does survive, it is often because their heart has been restarted within a few minutes from going into cardiac arrest. In Louise’s case, the resuscitation provided by the crew was so effective that, despite her being in cardiac arrest for 28 minutes she was brought back to life and has made an exceptional recovery.”

Ms Higgs’s mother Joan said she was “beyond grateful” that the “amazing” paramedics saved her daughter.

She added: “I lost my son 13 years ago and one thing’s certain, if Louise hadn’t survived, I would have died too.”

What are the symptoms of cardiac arrest? 

“Someone suffering from a cardiac arrest will collapse, stop breathing and will very quickly turn grey,” explains the LAS. 

It adds: “If you recognise these symptoms in someone call 999 for an ambulance immediately, even before you start to help the patient yourself. A cardiac arrest and a heart attack are not the same.”

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