Two members of the Cornwall Air Ambulance crew have been shortlisted in The Sun’s Who Cares Wins Awards 2022.
The awards, in partnership with NHS Charities Together, celebrate healthcare heroes from frontline NHS staff to the ordinary people who go above and beyond.
Cornwall Air Ambulance, along with two RNLI lifeguards and the South Western Ambulance Service Foundation Trust (SWASFT), have been nominated for the ‘999 Hero’ award following an incident near Portreath in 2021.
In March last year, 64-year-old delivery driver Chris Barendt was at the wheel of his van when he suffered a cardiac arrest. Thanks to the quick-thinking of those who helped him, Chris beat the incredible odds and survived.
Chris said: “It was a total miracle. I was very, very lucky. Those on the scene that day all thought I was dead – I technically was for 27 minutes.”
Cornwall Air Ambulance crew members Thomas Hennessy Jones and Louise Lamble played a key role in helping to save Chris’ life.
Chris’ van had come to a sudden halt on the road that day, prompting drivers in nearby vehicles, including RNLI lifeguards Tom McRitchie and Graham Fisher, to pull over to help. Unable to open the van door, they smashed the window and pulled Chris onto the road to commence CPR along with passer-by Colin Grant, while they awaited the emergency services.
Tom said: “I saw Chris slumped over and could see he was very, very blue. We put him on the floor, checked his breathing and kept his airways open.”
Three minutes later two ambulances and a car with crew members Christian Brown, Ashleigh Eddy, Sinead Kevern, Scott Marshall, and Darren Pond from the South Western Ambulance Service Foundation Trust arrived. They shocked Chris seven times with the defibrillator before he regained a pulse.
Christian, SWASFT’s operations officer, said: “As we arrived, they were doing an outstanding job of delivering basic life support to him. It shows the importance of bystander CPR, every minute really does count. We started to get signs of life from Chris and managed to stabilise him. It was a great example of teamwork. Everything seemed to align, everything was in Chris’s favour that day.”
Cornwall Air Ambulance was tasked to the incident, with your AW169 helicopter landing in a nearby field in just 12 minutes. Two of the charity’s paramedics sedated Chris and put him on a ventilator to transfer him to the Royal Cornwall Hospital.
Louise Lamble, Trainee Critical Care Paramedic at Cornwall Air Ambulance, said: “Thanks to the mechanical ventilator in the helicopter we were able to support Chris with his breathing and let his body recover. There are not many patients that have come back in quite the form that Chris has.”
Thomas Hennessy Jones, Critical Care Paramedic at Cornwall Air Ambulance, added: “Chris is a walking miracle. I get dispatched to those kinds of incidents a lot, but to actually have a walking, talking survivor is actually quite rare. This was a really good example of a community forming a team with the emergency services. We all came together to build that chain.”
Former RNLI Lifeguard Graham, who now works as a surf instructor, said: “When we left the scene, we thought we had seen someone die. Then the next day we got an update that he was ok and in intensive care. It was crazy.”
Just 48 hours later, doctors at the hospital were amazed when Chris was sat up in bed talking. He spent two weeks in hospital before returning to his home in Penryn.
His team of lifesavers have now been shortlisted for the ‘999 Hero’ category in The Sun’s Who Cares Wins Awards 2022, sponsored by The National Lottery.
The winners will be announced at a star-studded ceremony in London, hosted by Davina McCall, and will be broadcast on Channel 4 on Sunday 27th November.