“I CAN’T BREATHE SOMEONE PLEASE HELP ME” – The story of a peri – arrest survivor (part 1)

I can’t Breathe!

I literally can not breathe!

I try and open my mouth to shout for the nurse but no sound no air.

I quickly remembered that my husband has left the call bell close to my bed.

I press the button to get the nurses attention.

I can’t breathe. I can’t brea…

My thoughts get louder but my vision gets darker

I can’t…

“Oh my God, she’s crashing! Someone make an arrest call!!”

“Cardiac Arrest in Acute Medical Unit, I repeat Cardiac arrest in acute medical unit”

“She is flat lining, WHERE IS THE CRASH TEAM!”

That was what I was hearing all around me that night of August 5th 2015.

They say when you die the last thing to leave is your sense of hearing, I had a close experience that could support that theory.

My name is Maria. I am a 25 years old Accident and Emergency Nurse at Chelsea and Westminster hospital in the City of London.

I was told to tell you my story; hopefully my story would inspire you to take cardiac health seriously. If my story could prevent even one cardiac related death then my story was worth experiencing and worth telling.

August 4th started of as a normal day. After doing a night shift at the Emergency Department the night before, I spent most of my morning and afternoon sleeping and resting. The sun was shining, my husband had gone to work, my 2 years old daughter was laughing along to something she found amusing on Cbbies kids channel, and after a couple of hours of rest I stood up to make lunch. As I stood up I suddenly felt it, the heaviness in my chest, I felt my heart palpating. It was beating so fast and the palpitations were closely followed with a sudden onset of shortness of breath which was followed with sudden dizziness.

“I stood up to fast, let me rest some more and get up slowly” I said to myself

Again same thing when I stood up again. I tried to ignore it but the more I walked the dizzier and more short of breath I felt.

“What is this nonsense?” I asked myself. It was shocking considering that this occurrence was absolutely random. I don’t smoke or drink or take excessive caffeine. I wasn’t the fittest person but in terms of weight I was still considered a “slim girl”. As I continued to feel dizzy I noticed my daughter for the first time since the start of the whole ordeal. If anything is to happen to me let someone be around to look after my child. With that thought I called the ambulance. Trust London Ambulance Service, anything cardiac related they arrived within 6 minutes. As I opened the door for the paramedic, the look of annoyance was written all over his ignorant face. “You don’t look like someone that is having a cardiac related event”, he said smugly.

I quickly informed him that I was a senior nurse and an A&E one of that and I would not waste his precious time if I didn’t think that an ambulance was necessary, I wasn’t in the business in wasting NHS money on unneeded services. He quickly fixed his attitude. To both our surprise however when he did an Electrocardiogram (a record or display of a person’s heartbeat produced by electrocardiography) he saw signs of what in the medical field we call ‘Fast AF’.

In a nutshell my heart was racing a crazy 210 beats a minute rather than 60-90 beats per minute and it was racing in a rhythm that wasn’t sufficient in pumping blood well into the rest of my organs. With all this happening all the once there was an increased chance of my having a sudden heart attack or a major stroke.

Mr “I know it all” wisely loaded me into the ambulance alongside my very curious and excited 2 year old, and blue-lighted me (when they rush you asap to the nearest hospital). I was escorted into the RESUS room (this is the room they put you in if your condition is bad enough for them to assume that you may need to be resuscitated at any point. My Blood pressure was dropping and my heart rate was increasing, no amount of fluids or medication could normalise it to a safe range.

Fast forward 24hrs, they had stabilized me enough to move me to the acute medical unit. I wasn’t doing too well, I was on high flow oxygen and regular anti-coagulant (medication that thins the blood therefore reducing the risk of blood clots being formed that could cause strokes or aneurysms). Another issue that was really making matter worse is that this was the day that Mother Nature decided to do her monthly visit, so with me taking anticoagulant as part of my treatment it was having a bad effect on my gynaecological system and I was basically haemorrhaging. This also brought my blood pressure into critical zone. I woke up about 2am, looked at the observation machine that was tied to my arm and chest.

Oxygen Saturation: 81% on 5L of Oxygen (this should be 96-100%), I was slowly going into respiratory failure

Pulse: 196 Beats per minute, Rhythm: Atrial Fib

Blood Pressure: 75/40 (120/80-140/90 is the average range)

I realised that I couldn’t breathe, now guys this is not a feeling of shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing at this point I literally couldn’t breathe.

I turn to look at my observation machine again,

Heart rate: 196..170..120..100

Thank God its getting better


I can’t breathe, what is going on, I need to let these people know

50, 53, 40, 38


21, 16 ….

Then darkness…

to be continued …… see part 2!


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