Father thanks staff for saving daughter Briony Evans-Brown’s life at Sir John Leman school in Beccles

Sir John Leman High School student Briony Evans-Brown, 12, is returing to school after suffering a h

Sir John Leman High School student Briony Evans-Brown, 12, is returing to school after suffering a heart attack whilst at school. Briony at home with her parents Teresa and Alan.PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

The family of schoolgirl who suffered a cardiac arrest have praised staff for saving their daughter's life.

Sir John Leman High School student Briony Evans-Brown,12, is returing to school after suffering a he

Sir John Leman High School student Briony Evans-Brown,12, is returing to school after suffering a heart attack whilst at school. PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Just under three months ago Briony Evans-Brown collapsed and stopped breathing at Sir John Leman School in Beccles.

Today the 12-year-old Year 8 pupil is starting her first full day back at school.

Her dad Alan recounted receiving the call which every parent dreads.

'It started off as a typical Monday, he said. 'We had breakfast, I had given her a kiss and walked her to the bus stop. Everything was going OK.

'Then in the afternoon the headmaster rang and said Briony had an accident and the air ambulance was there to take her to hospital.'

Briony had suffered a cardiac arrest and fell and hit her head in the corridor at the end of the day after a drama lesson.

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A classmate darted over to the school's reception and said Briony was unconscious and not breathing.

Staff members rushed back, taking one of the school's two defibrillators with them. They resuscitated her twice before the paramedics arrived.

Mr Evans-Brown, 60, of Plovers Way, Oulton Broad, said that had it not been for them, his daughter would not have survived.

'If she had been on the bus home with her schoolmates, she would not be here. She was in the right place at the right time.'

He praised staff members Toby Gorbould, Amber Johnson, Imogen Tassie and Sally Turner, who performed the life-saving procedure, adding: 'We cannot thank them enough.'

The staff had been on a refresher course in how to use the device just three days before Briony went into cardiac arrest.

When Mr Evans-Brown arrived at the school, his daughter was in an induced coma and had to be taken immediately by air to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.

Mum Theresa was taken by the police to the Cambridgeshire hospital and arrived 40 minutes after.

Briony was later transferred to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London where she was diagnosed with a rare genetic heart defect called CPVT which affects the way the heart beats.

After two days she was brought out of sleep before undergoing an operation to install a device which automatically shocks the heart if it starts beating abnormally.

Three of the members of staff who saved her life visited Briony in hospital to see how she was getting on.

She has since made a strong recovery and although she has to take daily medication, the condition should not stop her getting on with life. Briony's dad now wants to campaign for every school in the country to have a defibrillator and trained staff.

'A defibrillator and associated training costs around £1,000, which is nothing to try and save someone's life.'

He hopes to gather signatures calling on the government to help and said he would even deliver it to the steps of 10 Downing Street himself.

He also plans to raise money for the air ambulance, Great Ormond Street Hospital and its Children's Acute Transport Service (CATS).

Headteacher Michael Taylor praised his staff for their work.

'They did a fantastic job. It was an awful experience but we're just delighted that Briony is back to normal in such a short amount of time.'

What is the condition called?

Briony's condition is called catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia or more simply CPVT.

It is thought to affect as many as one in 10,000 of the population and is condition caused by genetics.

The most common symptoms of CPVT are blackouts, palpitations and dizziness. These can be brought on by strenuous physical activity and heightened emotions, which can cause an increase in the amount of adrenaline running through your blood.

Doctors may prescribe a beta-blocker to help slow down the heart rate and help to prevent life-threatening arrhythmias (abnormal heart beats), and restrict the amount of physical activity the patient does.

Roughly one in three people also need to be fitted with an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD), which can give a heart electric pulses or shocks to get the heart rhythm back to normal.

Do you know someone who has had their life saved by a defibrillator? Email george.ryan@archant.co.uk

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