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Saying thank you by paying it forward

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Few people can say they have died and been resuscitated, let alone twice, but Norman Tolra is one such man. This week he got the opportunity to thank two off duty Northland DHB staff members who saved his life most recently.

Back in 2003, Norman was at his local gym in Christchurch when he had his first cardiac arrest. Gym staff performed mouth to mouth on him and managed to resuscitate him. When he returned to the gym afterwards one of the instructors who helped bring him back to life told him she decided to fulfil her dream of becoming a nurse after realising how capable she was in an urgent situation.

Norman and his wife Kaye, who now works as an occupational therapist at Northland DHB, also decided after the incident that he would never to leave the house again without some form of identification in case this happened again.

Then in June this year, Norman was just metres from his home when he collapsed from a second cardiac arrest while out jogging.

Emergency Department (ED) nurse Joby Paul was driving down Western Hills when she noticed Norman lying on the ground being attended to by Trent Membrey and stopped to assist. Midwife Priscilla Ford also pulled over with her home birth kit which included oxygen, and the pair worked together to perform expert cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on Norman until the ambulance turned up and took over.

Neither Joby or Priscilla were aware that the other was a health professional, but Priscilla recalls thinking that Joby must have listened to her instructor during first aid training because she was performing textbook CPR, and together their skills saved his life.

Kaye was at work when she received a call from ED asking her if she was Norman's wife. They had found a set of keys on him, which had his NHI number slotted into the key ring, enabling them to identify him and make the connection to her.

He was airlifted to Auckland Hospital where he spent a week in intensive care, followed by two weeks at Whangarei Hospital recovering from both the cardiac arrest and a head injury sustained from his fall to the ground.

Kaye said she didn't know what the protocol was when meeting someone who has saved your husband's life, adding "We can't do anything more than say thank you to Priscilla and Joby, and live our lives in a way that gives thanks."

All four urge the public to consider learning CPR, which, when performed early with minimal interruptions, is the most critical factor in a patient surviving.

Kaye said they have taken several lessons away from the incident, but above all, to be thankful for every day. She will be paying it forward by travelling to Vietnam at the end of the month to volunteer in a psychiatric hospital. This will be her second trip to the Qui Nhơn hospital, where she hopes to build on the work that she did last time.

Norman will travel with her, and when her hospital work is over, they plan to take a well-deserved break to see more of the country.

St John and Red Cross offer regular First Aid training for members of the public. Northland DHB offers in house training in Basic Life Support for staff which includes CPR and use of emergency call systems, and the use of AEDs.

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