Tuross man lucky to be alive after massive heart attack

LIFESAVING KIT: Narooma Ambulance station officer, paramedic Amber Barber holding the lifesaving Thrombolysis kit, heart attack patient Gary Feil of Tuross Head and Narooma paramedic Alan Butterworth.
LIFESAVING KIT: Narooma Ambulance station officer, paramedic Amber Barber holding the lifesaving Thrombolysis kit, heart attack patient Gary Feil of Tuross Head and Narooma paramedic Alan Butterworth.

TRUCK driver Gary Feil of Tuross Head is a grateful man and happy to be alive after he suffered a massive heart attack at home recently.

But thanks to new high-tech communications and a special kit containing life-saving drugs meant to improve the chances of surviving a heart attack, he will live to see many more days.

On Saturday night, July 12, 52-year-old Gary and his partner Julie Whitehead had not long gone to bed when he started feeling unwell.

“I was lying in bed and I started to feel uncomfortable so I got up and went to the toilet,” he said.

“While I was sitting there, I started to feel hot, very hot, so I laid down on the tiles to try and cool down.

“But I kept feeling worse and returned to the bedroom and sat on the side of the bed, I was feeling quite bad at this time, so I asked my partner Julie to call an ambulance.”

Narooma Ambulance station officer, paramedic Amber Barber and her partner paramedic Alan Butterworth were just returning to the Narooma station from Moruya Hospital.

They received the triple zero call to Tuross at 10.38pm as they were passing through Bodalla.

They arrived at Gary’s home at 11.10pm and immediately hooked him up to a 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) and took a reading.

The ECG reading was then blue-toothed to the emergency department at The Canberra Hospital where a registrar confirmed that Gary was suffering from a STEMI (ST segment elevation myocardial infarction) - a type of heart attack.

“We knew he was in big trouble,” paramedic Butterworth said.

“The specialist at The Canberra Hospital then gave us the go ahead to administer Pre-Hospital Thrombolysis medications from a kit we now carry in some of our ambulances.”

As part of the state-wide Cardiac Reperfusion Strategy, Pre-Hospital Thrombolysis (PHT) kits are now being provided in most ambulances.

“This program now ensures that care for heart attack victims starts as soon as our paramedics arrive,” a spokesperson for NSW Ambulance said.

The Thrombolysis kit has medications that work to dissolve clots in the body and the paramedics administered the drugs to Gary before they transferred him to hospital.

“I’m very lucky to be alive,” Gary said.

“A professor at the Canberra Hospital told me if the paramedics didn’t have the Thrombolysis drugs with them I wouldn’t have made it to the hospital,” he said.

A NSW Ambulance spokesperson said evidence showed that the effects of a heart attack can be minimised when treatment is given as close to when symptoms present as possible.

Three days later Gary was out of hospital suffering only minor cardiac damage.

“Do not ignore chest pain,” Gary said.

“Although I’m a big man, I do physical work every day and I thought my heart was fine.

“I was also a smoker,” he said.

Gary’s partner, Julie Whitehead said that she was also a smoker and had only given up smoking 12 days prior to Gary’s heart attack.

“I really felt like lighting up that night,” Julie said, “But I didn’t.”

Paramedic Amber Barber praised the family during the emergency.

“The family were so calm and helpful and most of all they didn’t panic,” she said.

“They were very supportive and reassuring and did not get in the way of us doing our job,” she said.

Gary was extremely grateful that the paramedics were able to help him and visited the Narooma Ambulance station to say thanks the day after he was discharged from hospital.

“I really want to thank the paramedics, the staff at Moruya hospital and the CMO Dr Grace,” he said.

Since the program started as a trial in July 2008, paramedics have administered thrombolysis to 267 patients across NSW.

“The program now ensures patients receive the best treatment for their condition, quicker than ever before, after the initial onset of heart attack symptoms,” a NSW Ambulance spokesperson said.

“The health benefits of this process to these patients can be significant and can often make the difference between total recovery of heart function and heart failure, especially in rural and regional areas where patients often face longer travel times to hospital.”