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May 2019

Brian, 89, Saved by Dog After Park Collapse

An 89-year-old man has thanked South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) after he collapsed while walking a family dog.

Brian Corrigan, 89, was with his grandson’s six-month-old Labrador, Chewy in Lawns Park, Swindon on 25 March when he fell to the ground and hit his head.

Chewy managed to alert professional dog walker, Carol Dyer who found Brian unresponsive and not breathing properly.

Her cries for help were heard by local resident, Andrew Spencer, who called 999 and was instructed to give Brian chest compressions until an ambulance arrived.

Paramedics took Brian to hospital, and he has gone on to make a fantastic recovery.

His wife, Frances, said: “It is such a wonderful outcome. If it hadn’t been for Chewy, Brian might not have lived. We’re just so thankful to everyone involved.”

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Tests in hospital revealed Brian’s collapse was caused by his aortic valve, which controls the flow of blood out from the heart to the rest of the body, being restricted.

He needed keyhole surgery to install a replacement valve, and has since returned home.

Brian, who will celebrate his 90th birthday later this month, and Frances praised the ambulance crews for their treatment of him. While George Richards and Christina Clifford drove Brian to hospital, Henry Fielding and Sophie Weaver brought Chewy home and informed Frances.

Frances said: “The paramedics were so professional and reassuring. I felt as though they could really relate to my concerns. I was so impressed by the quality of their care.

“Our Christian faith means a lot to us, and we’ve had lots of people praying for Brian. We believe there were angels there for him. It all comes under the umbrella of love.”

The Swindon Advertiser appealed to find the bystanders who helped Brian, and then arranged for Carol to be reunited with him on Thursday 02 May 2019 .

Carol told the newspaper: “Dogs are definitely a man’s best friend. He saved Brian’s life. It’s heart-rending.”

Brian added: “It’s the story of my life, and here I am to tell the tale.”


The group photo shows: Brian Corrigan (right); his wife Frances (left); Carol Dyer (back); Brian’s grandson, Alfie; and Brian’s dog, Chewy.

All photographs have been kindly provided by the Swindon Advertiser. If you would like to publish the photos, please credit: Dave Cox, Swindon Advertiser.

Raise a Cuppa to Support South Western Ambulance Charity

South Western Ambulance Charity is encouraging local organisations across the region to host tea parties to celebrate our beloved health service and raise vital charity funds.

The NHS Big Tea will see companies up and down the country hold events to toast the NHS’ birthday on Friday 5 July.

It follows the success the last year’s nationwide Big7Tea to mark the NHS turning 70.

The South Western Ambulance Charity provides funding to benefit the public who use South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) services, and improves the wellbeing of its staff and volunteers.

Zoe Larter, Head of South Western Ambulance Charity, said: “Wherever you are in the South West, we’d love you to host your own tea party and invite friends, family and colleagues along to mark the occasion and raise valuable funds to help us go the extra mile for our exceptional people, our volunteer heroes and the communities served by SWASFT. You can hold the party on any date that suits you in late June or early July.”

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The humble cup of tea has a long and proud association with the NHS. Originally served to patients in traditional fine cups with saucers and a teaspoon, tea was considered an important aspect of patient satisfaction and recovery.

Tea brings us all together. It breaks down social boundaries, and like the NHS and NHS charities, is a symbol of comfort and community.

All money raised from Big Tea parties will go towards:

  • Supporting our volunteer heroes - providing enhanced equipment and training to our Community First Responder groups.
  • Supporting our exceptional people - providing equipment and enhancing facilities, extending access to sources of help and support with wellbeing and personal development.
  • Supporting our communities - providing defibrillators and basic life support training across the region.

If you’d like to host your own Big Tea Party, email: to get all the necessary information.

Ex-999 Call Handler Gillian Meets Lifesavers After Cardiac Arrest

A former 999 call handler has thanked volunteer doctors and the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) team who saved her life when her heart stopped.

Gillian Kirkman, 54, had a sudden cardiac arrest at home near Bovey Tracey, Devon in October 2018.

Her ex-paramedic husband, Iain, gave his wife chest compressions to give her a fighting chance of survival.

Three BASICS (British Association for Immediate Care Schemes) Devon Doctors responded to an automated pager message about the incident within six minutes. They used a defibrillator to get her heart beating again. 

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After a period of stabilisation, SWASFT Paramedics and one of the BASICS Doctors transported Gillian by ambulance to Torbay Hospital.

She has gone on to make a fantastic recovery, and was given an internal pacemaker to prevent it happening again. 

To listen to the 999 call, click here

Gillian, who has no memory of the incident, made a special visit to a SWASFT base in Exeter on 14 May to meet some of those who responded to the emergency.

She said: "I’m incredibly lucky to be alive. Everyone played their part, including the call handler who ensured I had the right response, and the volunteer doctors who were able to arrive so quickly.

“My family and I can never thank everyone involved enough for saving my life and giving us precious time together.”

Before her cardiac arrest, Gillian had been diagnosed with an abnormal heart rhythm and was awaiting a consultation.

Gillian said: “We were watching a film after a day out, and it was the last thing any of us were expecting to happen.”

Two adults with learning difficulties, who live with Gillian and Iain, made the 999 call.  

SWASFT Emergency Medical Dispatcher, Laura Long, gave cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) instructions over the phone, which the callers passed onto Iain.

Iain added: “I went into resus mode. It was only afterwards that I thought – what if?”

Gillian said: “My husband’s CPR was so effective he cracked several of my ribs and my sternum!

“Although I had the physical trauma, I wasn’t aware of it happening at the time.

“I woke up in hospital the next afternoon, and the first thing I asked was ‘when can I go home?’ and ‘when can I go back to work?’

“Having been a call taker myself, it’s strange being on the other side. I’ve been in the control room when that kind of call comes in, and it does change the atmosphere.

“I would encourage anyone to learn to do CPR. If you don’t do anything, the person will die. So it can make all the difference.”

Due to an electrical problem, Gillian’s heart is still unable to pump blood around her body as it should do. But her pacemaker controls her heartbeat, and can administer a shock if her heart beats too quickly.  

She added: “Although I am restricted in what I can do now, I’m trying to make the most of life, and am enjoying being back at work.”

BASICS Devon Doctors Simon Scott-Hayward, Lauren Weeks, and Nick Ratcliff were diverted from a training exercise with Dartmoor Search and Rescue at Haytor to attend the incident.

Dr Scott-Hayward, who is also SWASFT Primary Care Medical Director, said: “This is a fantastic example of the cardiac arrest chain of survival. That includes excellent and immediate bystander CPR, rapid arrival of a defibrillator, along with stabilisation before transport to hospital.”

A South Western Ambulance Service spokesman added: “Gillian is living proof that can people and do survive cardiac arrests, if they are given the right treatment at the right time.

“SWASFT is enormously grateful for the support provided by all our BASICS volunteers.”

If you suspect someone is having a heart attack or cardiac arrest: call 999 immediately, begin CPR, and use a public access defibrillator if one is available.


1. The photos show (left to right): Simon Scott-Hayward, BASICS Devon Doctor and SWASFT Primary Care Medical Director; Iain and Gillian Kirkman; Nick Ratcliff, BASICS Devon Doctor and Critical Care Paramedic for Devon Air Ambulance.

2. Gillian worked for Dorset Ambulance Service from 1991 to 2000. Iain worked for Dorset Ambulance Service from 1989. He later transferred to West Country Ambulance Service, before retiring in 2008. 

Heart attack and cardiac arrest:

  1. A heart attack is a serious medical emergency when in which the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot. 
  2. A sudden cardiac arrest is an urgent medical emergency when the heart stops beating, abruptly and without warning. If this happens, blood stops pumping round the body, and the brain is starved of oxygen. That causes the person to fall unconscious and stop breathing. A heart attack may cause a cardiac arrest.
  3. There are approximately 59,000 cardiac arrests in England each year. There are approximately 28,000 attempts to resuscitate people having out-of-hospital cardiac arrests each year. The survival rate is just 8% compared to more than 20% in some other countries.
  4. The sooner effective cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is started, the better the chance of survival for the patient. For every minute delay, the patient’s chances of survival fall by 10%. If a defibrillator is readily available, patients are six times more likely to survive.
  5. If you think someone is having a heart attack or cardiac arrest: call 999 immediately, begin CPR, and use a public access defibrillator if one is available.

'Magic Mike' Retires After 50 Years' Ambulance Service

Stroud paramedic Mike Merrett has spent fifty years serving his community and treating hundreds of patients in their time of need with medical emergencies.  Now it is time for ‘Magic Mike’ (as some of his patients call him) to hang up his defibrillator and pack away his clinical equipment, as he celebrates his career with friends and his ‘green’ family.

Mike’s colleagues at South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) say he’s an inspiration: “Mike’s a compassionate and caring paramedic whose longevity has inspired all around him; he is a loved member of Team Stroud.”

When Mike started working as an ambulance ‘Driver Attendant’ back in 1969, he was 20 years old, and was only armed with a first aid box and a small oxygen tank. How times have changed with emergency medicine since.

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But what is it that has kept Mike Merrett working for the ambulance service all these years?  “I just love the job,” he says. “It is the best job in the world (apart from being a Top Gear presenter). I’ve enjoyed seeing the people I’ve treated who have survived traumatic injuries walking around.  Saving people’s lives really has got job satisfaction.”

One of Mike’s lucky survivors has met-up at Stroud Ambulance Station with him and crew who saved her.  Mandy Palk from Stonehouse in Gloucs said: “I’ve known Mike since I was little and I was so glad it was him who came to help me when I wasn’t feeling well.  I collapsed and had a cardiac arrest at home one evening six months ago, and it was Mike and the team who were there to help save me.  It took them six shocks to get my heart started again.  I just felt calm when Mike was there and knew it would be OK.”

The top group photo shows (left to right): Paramedic Sophie Cave; Mike’s wife Dolores Merrett; Paramedic Mike Merrett; Amber (Mandy’s daughter), patient Mandy Palk, Jade (Mandy’s daughter), two of Mandy’s neighbours, and Community First Responder Russell Cooke.

Police Officer Meets 20 Lifesavers

A police officer has been reunited with more than 20 people, including South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) staff, who were involved in saving his life when his heart stopped twice.

Avon and Somerset Police Constable, Ben Perrin, had a sudden cardiac arrest at Chipping Sodbury Police Station near Bristol on the evening of 17 March after attending a police incident.

Ben, then 43, had reported feeling unwell, before colleagues found him unconscious and not breathing.

They called 999, did chest compressions, and shocked him several times with a defibrillator in an effort to get his heart beating again.

To listen to the 999 call made by Ben's colleague, Ryan, click here. 

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In hospital Ben had a severe pulmonary haemorrhage and a second cardiac arrest. He was not expected to survive the night.

However, he remained alive, and has gone on to make an extraordinary recovery.

Ben made a special visit to the force’s headquarters in Portishead on Tuesday 21 May to meet and thank some of the estimated 100 hospital, ambulance, air ambulance and police staff who were directly involved in treating him.

Ben, who has no memory of the incident, said: “I feel like I’m the luckiest man on earth. I shouldn’t be here; I should have died.

“I’m very grateful for all the care I received from everyone including my colleagues.  

“If you find someone unconscious and not breathing, stay calm and call 999 for an ambulance. And try CPR because you can’t make the situation any worse.”

PC Nathan Sollis, who gave the initial CPR to his colleague and close friend, said: “The adrenaline took over, and we got on with it until the ambulance crews took over.

“We were told he wasn’t going to recover. It was difficult to comprehend what had happened to a very good friend. But he managed to pull through; Ben’s a miracle man!”

SWASFT Emergency Medical Dispatcher, Sigourney Keyte, guided the caller, PC Ryan Thomas, through the basic life support procedure. Meanwhile PC Nathan Sollis did CPR and used the defibrillator, with support from PC Katie Etherton.

A large team of responders – including paramedic land crews, specialist cardiac arrest support tier (CAST) paramedics, and a critical care team from Great Western Air Ambulance Charity (GWAAC) – provided advanced life support in a continued effort to resuscitate Ben.

The critical care team used a mechanical CPR device to administer automated chest compressions on Ben. They also gave him another two shocks with a defibrillator.

Ben was transported to the Bristol Royal Infirmary by ambulance in a critical condition. Paramedics managed to restart his heart in the ambulance before they reached the hospital.

But during heart surgery the significant bleed occurred, and Ben’s heart stopped again.

Hospital staff were able to get his heart beating for itself again. They restored his oxygen levels and his condition improved. 

After being in an induced coma for several weeks, he was released home on Good Friday.

Rhys Griffiths, SWASFT Operations Officer, who was one of the first ambulance responders to the incident, said:

“Ben is a success story where early intervention from his colleagues no doubt saved his life. Without their rapid actions, Ben’s story may have been different. Police staff laid a great foundation for SWASFT to continue resuscitation and utilise our advanced treatment. They deserve much praise for their swift actions on the night of his cardiac arrest.

“This was an ultimate team effort from police, hospital staff, air ambulance and ambulance staff. We all train and educate ourselves to a high level, and it is always an incredible feeling to be involved in making such a huge difference for a patient.”

Dr Sanjoy Shah, Clinical Chair of the Division of Surgery at University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Ben suffered a cardiac arrest and was critically ill.

“His survival is a testament to the team work of the SWASFT team and the Bristol Royal Infirmary emergency department, cardiac catheter labs and intensive care unit teams. With excellent care and a huge amount of hard work and determination from the staff, Ben, his family and his police colleagues, he has made a brilliant recovery.

“We’re thrilled with Ben’s recovery and wish him all the best for the future.”

If you suspect someone is having a heart attack or cardiac arrest: call 999 immediately, begin CPR, and use a public access defibrillator if one is available.


1. The main group shows Ben wearing a checked shirt with his family standing either side of him. He is also with his police colleagues, ambulance and air ambulance staff, and staff from the hospital. All images were taken by South Western Ambulance Service.

2. A sudden cardiac arrest is an urgent medical emergency when the heart stops beating, abruptly and without warning. If this happens, blood stops pumping round the body, and the brain is starved of oxygen. That causes the person to fall unconscious and stop breathing.

3. CAST is a new initiative under SWASFT’s Saving Lives Together campaign. It is intended to provide specially trained paramedics to support high-quality CPR.

Tributes Paid to Paramedic Jo

Joanne Dimelow

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) staff have paid tribute to popular Redruth Student Paramedic Joanne ‘Jo’ Dimelow following her sudden death.

Jo, who had worked for SWASFT since 2004, passed away at her home in Perranporth on Tuesday 14 May.

The post mortem examination has concluded Jo’s death was due to a ruptured brain aneurysm.

A celebration of Jo’s Life will take place at Truro Cathedral on Thursday 6 June at 10.30am.

SWASFT colleagues will form a guard of honour at the entrance to the Cathedral, and SWASFT motorcycles will escort the cortege.

In a statement, Jo’s family said: “We have lost a truly amazing woman in Jo who touched so many people’s lives. She will be sorely missed as a much-loved mother, sister, granny, aunt, niece, cousin, friend and crew mate. We want to thank everyone for all their very kind messages and support throughout this very sad time and are truly humbled by the overwhelming response.”

Paramedic Hayley Mallinson said: “It’s so clear how much joy Jo brought to everyone, and how sorely she will be missed.”

Paramedic Jonathan Thomas added: “Jo was a wonderful person who had so much to give and was always quick with a smile. We are all much less without her.”

For more information about the funeral, please contact Scott Watters of Cornwall Funeral Services on 01209 211684 or

999 Operator, Alison, Creates Supershoes for Cancer Children

A South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) 999 Call Handler is volunteering her time and creative skills to put smiles on the faces of very sick children.

Emergency Medical Dispatcher (EMD) and volunteer artist Alison Harding, 39, hand paints custom-made shoes on behalf of the charity Supershoes for children fighting cancer.

Alison, who lives near Launceston in Cornwall, spends at least 10 hours uniquely decorating each pair of personalised trainers to represent the child or young person, and can feature anything from family pets to film stars.

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The shoes are intended to give a morale boost to the young person while they are undergoing treatment, and to raise awareness of children fighting cancer.

Alison, who has worked for SWASFT in the Exeter Control Hub since March 2018, said: “Although I’ve always been creative, I’d never done painting when I heard that Superheroes were looking for volunteer Super Artists. But I wanted to help, and challenge myself to do something out of my comfort zone.

“I haven’t looked backed since then. I love being able to make these children’s lives a little bit brighter.”

Alison’s 30th pair of shoes were for a four-year-old boy who likes ambulances and is a fan of Minions. So she painted an image of the fictional creature dressed in a green paramedic uniform standing beside an ambulance.

Other shoes she has made have featured Thomas the Tank Engine, Harry Potter, Little Mix, Ed Sheeran, and Arsenal football club.

She said: “All we find out is the child’s name, age and what they’d like on their shoes. I had a request from a girl to have an image of her pet chickens on her shoes. Then she sent me a video message to say thank you which was lovely. I was asked to do a fast-track order for a 14-year-old boy, because he was going to pass away soon. I also did a tiny pair of shoes for a toddler, which was heart-breaking to do. And the ambulance shoes were just an opportunity too good to miss!”

The charity, which was founded in 2013, sends out dozens of pairs of shoes each week to children and young people with cancer across the UK.

For more information and to donate to Supershoes visit call 01908 274 944 or email


1. Supershoes is a charity that strives to improve the physical and emotional wellbeing of children fighting cancer in the UK by providing them with a pair of custom painted shoes.

2. The charity was founded in 2013 by Sarah White after she saw an article in a newspaper about a four-year-old boy fighting neuroblastoma (nerve tissue cancer).

3. Emergency Medical Dispatchers (999 Call Handlers) respond to emergency calls from the public by providing urgent medical advice and assistance for people in need. They prioritise patients to ensure the most appropriate help is arranged for them. For information and to apply for the vacancies within the Trust, visit NHS Jobs.

South Western Ambulance Charity logo

South Western Ambulance Charity

The South Western Ambulance Charity, founded in 1995, uses gifted monies to benefit those in our communities who use our service and to improve the welfare of the staff and volunteers of the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust. 

Our charitable support covers Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire including Bristol and Swindon.

If you would like to show your appreciation for the care that you or your loved one has received from us in the form of a charitable donation please visit our online giving website: Donate to South Western Ambulance Charity | Give as you Live Donate