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Melanie Niesink helped husband Frank survive coronary and cardiac arrest: ‘Quick resuscitation saved his quality of life’

20 January 2017

First responders don’t only save lives, but especially the quality of life. When 59-year-old Frank Niesink got a coronary immediately followed by cardiac arrest, there was immediate help. Thanks to the resolute action on the part of his wife, Melanie, the neighbours and first responders, he survived the attack without too severe consequences. He feels good and is regaining more and more energy. Melanie tells their story.

Horseshoe

On Whitsun Monday 2016, Frank was getting ready for the home game of football club De Graafschap against MVV in the play-offs. While he was upstairs getting his things together, I was in the home office doing some translation work. Suddenly I heard something heavy fall in the adjoining hallway, followed by the unmistakable sound of the horse shoe falling from the top of the closet. I called out something and expected a humorous reply, as Frank often gives. But this time there was just a frightful silence. A few moments later I found him lying on the ground, with his head against the radiator.

Emergency number

When I was unable to make him regain consciousness, panic struck. What was the emergency number? Born as a British citizen, I was raised with 999, but when I moved to the Netherlands, it was 06-11. But what was it now? I couldn’t remember. That is why I called the neighbour. Together with his wife, who can perform CPR, he immediately responded to the emergency situation. In the meantime I had remembered to call 112 and did so immediately. The alarm centre immediately sounded the alarm using Stan the CPR Network.

First responders

In front of our house, a car stopped, and an unknown woman jumped out to come resuscitate my husband. The driver quickly went on to get an AED. Not much later more first responders arrived, with and without AEDs. The Animal Ambulance also came by with an AED. Four people helped, the rest kept their distance, so they wouldn’t get in each other’s way.

Completely blue

It wasn’t looking good for Frank. Sixteen years before, he had suffered a coronary, and had recovered well. But now he was gasping in the throes of death, and was completely blue by the time the ambulance took him to Rijnstate hospital in Arnhem. ‘Percutaneous angioplasty and placing stents are all we can do for him’, were the very unpromising words they told us.

Gleam of hope

In the days after his cardiac arrest, Frank remained in a coma. He was cooled and kept asleep for 24 hours. Then he opened his eyes for just a moment. But the doctors put him to sleep because a delirium caused him to react fearfully and almost aggressively. After another 24 hours, the sleep-inducing drug was halted, he woke up, and slowly a gleam of hope arose. His delirium did take a few more days. From Saturday onwards, five days after his cardiac arrest, he is completely conscious and his memory has returned.

Emotional

No one expected Frank to survive this. Stan The CPR Network and the first responders worked perfectly for us, especially because help arrived so soon. The quicker the help, the smaller the damage. Every second counts. The incident still gets me emotional, even months later. This does not only happen to patients, but the entire family. I consciously lived through it all, and regularly relive all of it.

Grandpa and grandma

Our daughter Elaine sought out the people who resuscitate. They were invited to our home. As thanks for their resolute actions, they received a heart carved from stone. Our thanks also go out to everyone who came, but did not have to help. Elaine brought us another happy message. While her father was in the IC, she had found out she was expecting. We’re becoming first-time grandparents.