Young dad (25) cheats death after 999 call is blocked
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LUCKY TO BE ALIVE: Chris with mum Liz this week.
Picture: Jim Payne
A YOUNG Dunfermline dad who suffered a cardiac arrest at home only survived because he lives yards from the ambulance station.
When Chris Upton (25) collapsed lifeless his frantic mum could not get through on 999 and so ran the short distance from their home in Keir Hardie Terrace to the ambulance base.
Luckily, even though all ambulances were out on emergency calls, two paramedics were at the station and rushed to treat Chris, who had stopped breathing and was turning blue.
Through heart massage and use of a defibrillator they were able to bring him back to life.
Chris said this week, "The surgeon in Edinburgh told me if it wasn't for the fact I live next to the ambulance depot and they were able to get to me so quick, I wouldn't have survived that. I know I'm very lucky to be alive. I can't remember anything about it.
"The first thing I remember is waking up in the hospital."
Chris was taken to the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy and later transferred to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
"They still don't know what happened," he said.
"I want them to find out so they can do something about it.
"This came right out of the blue. I've never had any problems like that before.
"You don't expect to have a cardiac arrest when you're 25 but it's quite scary finding out this is a lot more common among young people than you would think.
"They put in a ICD defibrillator implant so if it happens again then at least it's there.
"Your head gets full of 'what ifs'. For an example, they were going to shut the depot down at one time so what would have happened then?"
Chris, who is single and has a seven-year-old son, Kieran, is recovering well and is now back at work in the kitchens of HMS Caledonia in Rosyth.
His mum, Liz, recalled the horrific incident and her panic when she could not get through to the emergency services.
Both were at home when Liz heard her son collapse in the hall as he was making a call on his mobile phone.
"I couldn't believe it when I called 999. It was ringing then this voice kept saying 'please hold the line, we will try to connect you'.
"I was saying 'hold the line nothing, my son's dying here'. When it kept repeating the same thing I was saying, 'There's nobody there!'
"I was on the phone all the way down to the ambulance depot. Fortunately there were staff there and one of them came running back with me and another came up in a van.
"I was running down my path when the phone went off and it was the emergency services asking 'did you call 999?'
"One of the paramedics jumped on to Chris and started massaging his heart and the other one came with the defibrillator.
"By the time the ambulance came the two paramedics had brought him around.
"The cardiologist told us that if it wasn't for the fact the paramedics were in the building my son would be dead.
"His gran and grandad must have been looking down on him that day."
Liz showed her appreciation by going to the depot to thank the staff personally.
However, she is still shocked that there was no reply when she called 999.
"When it's an emergency you expect to get straight through, you don't expect an automated message asking you to hold on."
She added that family members who had rushed to her home from Rosyth arrived before the ambulance.
"The ambulance took 20 minutes so it would have been too late," she said.
The events unfolded at 10.50am on Tuesday 20th March just days after the country had been gripped by Bolton Wanderers footballer Fabrice Muamba's fight for life after he suffered cardiac arrest during a televised match.
Liz continued, "It was lucky it happened when Chris was day off and was here.
"He walks to work at quarter-to-six in the morning through the park so if it happened then there would have been no-one around. It was also lucky I was here and hadn't gone out of the house."
An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is a small electrical impulse generator used in patients who run the risk of sudden cardiac arrest.
A spokesman for the ambulance service pointed out that emergency calls are handled initially by BT.
He added, "The quick thinking and actions of two paramedics saved the patient's life.
"Although all ambulances were out on 999 calls two paramedics in the station immediately went to help the patient.
"They treated and stabilised him and he was transferred to hospital within 15 minutes."
This article appeared in Dunfermline Press 22 Jun 12