In July this year, Sandra Young, a Senior Administration Assistant, was at her home in Whangarei preparing lunch to take to work when she began to feel unwell.
“A really heavy crushing pain began in the centre of my chest and steadily increased. After sitting down for a spell I became light-headed, noticed that my hands were tingly and my forehead was clammy, and I started to feel sick,” says Sandra. “My husband Doug dialled 111 for the ambulance and from there, it all happened so fast.”
The St Johns ambulance arrived at 8.15am and gave her two ECGs in her home. These identified an abnormal heart reading, so by 8.40am, Sandra was being rushed to Whangarei Hospital.
“I remember lying in the ambulance and thinking ‘Oh my goodness, I can’t believe I’m here; that this is happening to me’,” she says.
“Then I realised that we had turned left and were no longer heading towards the hospital.”
The ambulance staff had made the call to organise the Northland Electricity Rescue Helicopter to meet them at the St Johns base and fly Sandra directly to Auckland Hospital.
Sandra’s heart condition required a specialised procedure called PCI – or Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) to remove a clot and restore normal blood flow. International guidelines recommend that patients experiencing this condition undergo PCI within 120 minutes.
St Johns Ambulance and the rescue helicopter initiated their new “Code STEMI Bypass” system to bypass the Whangarei Hospital Emergency Department and transport their patient to Auckland Hospital as quickly as possible.
The rescue helicopter team landed at Auckland Hospital at 9.30am and Sandra was in theatre by 9.40am. One hour and two stents later, the blood clot was removed and Sandra began recovery in the CCU ward.
“It all happened so quickly and it certainly wasn’t the first helicopter ride that I thought I would have,” she says.
“I have my life due to some very amazing people and without them I may not have been so lucky. They were there when I needed them and for that I am so very grateful.”
Sandra appeals to Northlanders to continue to show generosity during this year’s rescue helicopter appeal and to give as much as they can.
“I know I will be donating again,” says Sandra. “Because you just don’t know what is going to happen when you get up in the morning.”