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Cardiac arrest survivors honoured by Middlesex-London Paramedic Service

The seven cardiac arrest survivors who were honoured during the Middlesex-London Paramedic Service's 8th Annual Cardiac Arrest Survivor Day. Andrew Graham / Global News

Seven people who recently survived a cardiac arrest, and the first responders who saved their lives, were the guests of honour during the Middlesex-London Paramedic Service’s 8th Annual Cardiac Arrest Survivor Day.

Held at MLPS’ headquarters in south London, Ont., Thursday’s event marked the first time since the start of the pandemic that officials were able to hold the ceremony in-person.

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“In 2020, there were a total of 743 responses to cardiac arrest calls within the Middlesex-London response area. Of those 743, Middlesex-London Paramedic Service treated 381,” said MLPS Chief Neal Roberts in an address to Thursday’s ceremony.

“When we look at our statistics … relating to sudden cardiac arrest, we saw a 67 per cent bystander CPR-rate for (those who) witnessed cardiac arrest, and folks that is truly amazing and remarkable for our community.”

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Attendees heard the stories of each survivor before they were reunited on stage with those who saved them.

One of those survivors is Matthew Graham.

In January 2021, the local contractor, who was then 33 years old, went in for his first-ever physical examination where he was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and prescribed medication.

“Basically, my medical condition flip-flopped … stopped taking my pills, as per the doctor’s request, and eight days later, I was unresponsive in my bed,” Graham said, adding that he remembered absolutely nothing from May 11, 2021, when the cardiac arrest occurred.

His wife called 911 and dispatchers advised her to get Graham off the bed and start doing compressions. After more than 10 minutes, paramedics and other first responders arrived to take over. Graham was marked as “vital signs absent” for about 32 minutes during the incident.

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He was then transported to hospital where he later fell into a coma. His family was told the grey matter in his brain was dying and that his organs were shutting down.

“I was put on life support, my family were called in to plan whether or not I was going to donate my organs or keep me on life support or pull the plug, and they decided not to give up on me,” Graham said.

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After receiving medication and care, Graham eventually woke up from his coma before being released from hospital on May 18, 2021.

Thursday marked the first time he was able to reunite with the first responders who saved his life.

“It’s like meeting family members that you’ve never seen before. Strangers came to my house that night and did absolutely everything in their power to make sure that I got to breathe the next day. I’m eternally grateful for that,” Graham said, adding that his near-death experience gave him a fresh outlook on life.

“I have a whole new appreciation for everything …  medial tasks that seem mundane are exciting to me now because I actually have that opportunity to do that. I get to see my kids grow up.”

Advanced care paramedic John Clarke is one of several first responders responsible for saving Matthew Graham’s life. Andrew Graham / Global News

Thursday’s reunion was just as emotional for John Clarke, one of several first responders responsible for saving Graham’s life.

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An advanced care paramedic who has worked for the MLPS for nine years, Clarke says the 911 call from Graham’s wife was one of the first he responded to after coming back from time off to focus on his family and himself.

“I’m happy to be a part of his story and his life … it’s just incredible. Really hard to put it into words, but it’s more of a feeling and it’s a great feeling,” Clarke said.

“It’s things like this that keep me going.”

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