Former King’s Lynn firefighter reunited with paramedics who saved him

Quick action of Alex Russell's wife Mary helped him survive

Former firefighter Alex Russell has been reunited with the ambulance team which battled for more than 40 minutes to save him after a massive heart attack.

Mr Russell, 61, suffered a cardiac arrest at his South Wootton home, near King's Lynn, in the early hours of March 26 and it was the quick-thinking of his wife Mary which laid the foundations for his recovery.

With basic first aid knowledge, she immediately began resuscitating her hubsand and when the ambulance crew arrived just five minutes after the call, they were able to take over.


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Paramedic Carl Smith is a friend of the family and was a pall-bearer at the funeral of the couple's son Cameron, who died from cancer two-and-a-half years ago aged 32.

'Knowing the family personally and being fully aware of the grief already suffered by them added extra pressure in trying to save Alex's life,' he said.

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'He refused to give up his fight, but the main reason we were able to work so hard to save him was due to Mary carrying out such early and effective resuscitation. She carried this out from the moment Alex collapsed. Evidence has proven that basic, early CPR, exactly as Mary carried out, and early shocking is what saves lives,' said Mr Smith, who is also a retained fireman.

His patient was in cardiac arrest for 40 minutes before his pulse returned and he started trying to breathe again. Mr Russell was shocked with a defibrillator seven times by the team.

He was taken to Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) before being transferred to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and his family were warned that he was unlikely to survive. He was returned to the QEH where he was in intensive care.

'We were told to prepare for the worst. They really didn't think he would make it,' said Mrs Russell, who said she had 'just focused' when her husband collapsed and she began resuscitation.

The family's ordeal wasn't over though, as Mr Russell went on to suffer two strokes while he was in hospital which left him with speech and co-ordination difficulties.

'He was fighting all the time and never gave up,' said Mrs Russell.

It was his battling spirit and determination which paved the way for him to finally come home from hospital in May.

'He has amazed staff with is recovery,' said Mr Smith, who added that the incident highlighted the need for people to know basic resuscitation techniques.

'They talk you through it on the phone when you dial 999 - but it is so important and everyone should know the basics of chest compression,' he said.

Mr Russell, who also served as a Royal Marine before joining the fire service, is still receiving physiotherapy and after-care but is making good progress in his recovery.

His plans to climb the Himalayas for the third time have been put on hold - but his fitness regime to train for the expedition also helped him battle through.

'He was going to Nepal but had major back surgery so it was postponed. We both go to the LA Fitness gym and he had been working with people there to get fit again after the operation,' said Mrs Russell.

The couple have returned to the gym since Mr Russell's heart attack.

'Everyone has been so nice, the hospital staff, people at the gym, everyone,' said Mr Russell.

He was with the fire service for 29 years, many of them in Lynn and retired in 2004.

The couple's son Cameron was also a retained firefighter and a Police Community Support Officer. He died after battling cancer in October 2008 leaving a widow and two small children.

Mr and Mrs Russell's daughter Hayley is a serving police officer and has two children.

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