Case Study: Dave Cleland

On Saturday Feb 13, 2021, Dave had a heart attack and a week later he went into a state of cardiac arrest – the ultimate medical emergency – his heart had stopped beating.  

Early morning, February 20th, Dave and his wife went to the supermarket. Dave said: “I don’t really remember anything from the day, but apparently, in the afternoon I had gone upstairs for a rest as usual, and at some point, I had gone in to our en-suite bathroom. 

“Bernie said she heard a yelp followed by a loud thud. She called to Dave, but got no answer, so she ran upstairs where she found him motionless face down next to the bath. What seemed strange to her was that his arms where down by his side and not out in front, as if he had made no attempt to brace his fall. Bernie called 999 and started chest compressions on Dave, aided by the 999-call handler. In a strange twist of fate, Bernie had attended a CPR training refresher the evening before Dave’s cardiac arrest.” 

The paramedics arrived some 8 minutes later, with a critical care paramedic, volunteering with Suffolk Accident Rescue Service (SARS), arriving shortly afterwards. Another ambulance crew and an on-scene coordinator arrived followed by the East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA), with a further three pre-hospital critical care experts. From collapse to getting into hospital, Dave’s chain of survival included 15 people, beginning with Bernie. 

Dave now has an S-ICD, an internal defibrillator, fitted so that he is no longer reliant on bystander CPR if he ever suffers a repeat event. 

Dave said: “As a result of suffering the cardiac arrest, my heart attack almost feels minor or trivial, even though it is a significant event in its own right, and is ultimately the likely the cause of my cardiac arrest. 

“My story is one where the chain of survival functioned as well as it can, and the result was a great outcome.  

Dave’s rehabilitation story is also unusual. Because he’d had a heart attack, he was offered a series of cardiac rehabilitation sessions, something not often accessible across the UK to survivors of a Sudden Cardiac Arrest. Also, as EAAA were part of his story, this meant the family was proactively contacted by a member of their nursing After Care Team. This greatly supported the family’s psychological recovery as they were able to understand some of the why’s and wherefores’ of what they had been through, and importantly got to meet the people who were part of the chain of survival. 

Dave said: “Bernie and I are both very active on a number of fronts and it incredible to believe how our lives have changed over the last two years. We now volunteer with SARS and EAAA to deliver CPR and AED talks and training as well as working with Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK and Resuscitation Council UK. 

Two years on, we can rely on the EAAA After Care Team, our local cardiac rehabilitation group and the many clinicians we now call friends, if we are ever in need of emotional support. 

We have met many SCA survivors, and we understand the physical, and more importantly, psychological impact that coming back from the dead can have. ”  

We know this affects SCA survivors, their immediate families and those brave enough to deliver CPR, and we are really proud to be able to support the RCUK ‘Right to Recovery’ initiative.
Dave Cleland