PDH Team Effort Saves Hilary's Life

Friday, 22 May 2015
Hilary Saunders says she wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for the medical care she received in Portland after suffering a severe asthma attack and cardiac arrest.

Ms Saunders has been a lifelong asthmatic but said the attack at home on April 29 was the worst episode I ever had and led to her cardiac arrest.

It was horrible, she said. It wasn't like a normal asthma attack; it was like there was just no air. I couldn't breathe in or out, it was so scary.

Because I couldn't get any air to the heart I had the cardiac arrest.

The pressure had been building during the day.

I'd been sick for a while and said that afternoon that I thought I needed go to hospital. My partner Kevin Clarke said he'd move the car closer to the door but by the time he came back I said my lungs had stopped working and he needed to call an ambulance. Pretty soon after that I collapsed.

Mr Clarke performed CPR and called the ambulance. Paramedics were quick to arrive and also performed CPR before taking Ms Saunders to Portland District Health where she was stabilised and then airlifted to St Vincent's Hospital in Melbourne due to the severity of her condition.

After the cardiac arrest, Ms Saunders remembers very little about the incident, but realises the high level of local care saved her life.

The people at St Vincent's were singing the praises of everyone in Portland. They said if it wasn't for Portland I wouldn't be here, she said.

I've been in hospital with asthma before but never anything like that. There was just no air, she said. The paramedics, doctors, nurses and allied health staff at PDH worked efficiently, professionally and with great care and compassion as a team to save my life. My partner tells me everyone was fabulous.

Ms Saunders, who is about to turn 60, admits she hasn't been taking proper care of her asthma, but she's learned her lesson. I've always been in too much of a hurry to do stuff I enjoy doing, she said.

Ms Saunders has made one major change since the attack.

I stopped smoking, she said I blame myself a lot; I should never have smoked in the first place and should have given up years ago.

Ms Saunders said she hopes to use her experience to educate fellow Aboriginal people and the wider community about the risks of smoking and the need to take better care of your health.

I'd encourage anyone to give up smoking. It's the hardest thing in the world to do but it's worth it.

I'd been saying for ages I wasn't going to buy any more cigarettes. I'd have one and wouldn't even enjoy it, but I'd still go back. I’m not a big smoker, but one cigarette is too many.

Now Ms Saunders is just thankful to have a second chance.

On behalf of my family and myself I'd like to express publicly our thanks and gratitude. Words seem insufficient but I think Portland should be aware of the level of commitment and service available in our community through PDH and Ambulance Victoria.

You drive past the hospital all the time but unless you use the service you don't really know what's there and how good they are.

PDH Nurse Unit Manager-Emergency, Debbie Tozer, said it was a true emergency services team effort to save Ms Saunders.

Had the paramedics not worked so hard and efficiently at the scene she may never have made it to PDH, Ms Tozer said. Then it was a great effort by the Emergency Department nursing and medical staff to follow up their work.

It was great to see such a positive outcome.

PDH has a community nurse who can offer asthma education and quit smoking support. PDH's Hospitals Admission Risk Program (HARP) team can take on care coordination for people with chronic lung conditions to assist with signs and symptom management and action plans.

Nurse Unit Manager Health Independence Programs, Donna Eichler, said this enables people to self-manage their condition better and know how to recognise and act on changing symptoms.

PDH also offers pulmonary rehabilitation and other specific rehab groups to improve and maintain function.

PDH allied health services offer physiotherapy, exercise physiology, dietitians, counselling, diabetes education, speech therapy, occupational therapy, continence nurse, cancerlink nurse and a range of other services which can help manage people with chronic complex care needs.

For more information, contact PDH primary and community health services on 5521 0653.

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