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First responder Rutger Vos saved the life of a man in cardiac arrest: ‘An almost indescribable feeling’

20 January 2017

It was early September, and Rutger had had a great evening at a concert. He had a drink at a friend’s house, when he was suddenly called in for a resuscitation. What he didn’t know at the time, was that he would be saving a man’s life minutes later. He calls it ‘a wonderful feeling, to make a difference like that’. The only 19-year-old Rutger tells Stan his story.

Chest compression

At first, the alert startled me, but I immediately pressed ‘accept’. The navigation in the app led me to the incident. When I arrived, the police had also just arrived. The victim was in the living room. I immediately got down on my knees next to him and started chest compression. In a situation like that everything happens rapidly, you do everything automatically and without hesitation.

First responders

When the ambulance arrived, I made room and let the professional first responders do their work. The images of tubes, syringes, all the equipment, the AED sending shocks through the body and the LUCAS chest compression device; I’ll never forget it. So much is happening at the same time. You see the family nearby getting emotionally weaker and weaker. I’ll never forget that image.

Breathing

I was there as a first responder, but also to support the family. Because as a first responder, you always try to be supportive. Resuscitation continued in the meantime. After over half an hour of resuscitation, I suddenly saw a small movement. The victim started breathing again. Nothing was certain yet, his heart rate kept changing and doubt remained. But somewhere in the back of your mind, you get the happy feeling that he is going to make it.

Victim

Eventually, we lifted the stretcher into the ambulance together. Victim and family went to the hospital as quickly as possible. My work was done and I went home. Every day afterwards, I kept thinking: would he have made it? I was looking for closure, and so after a few days, I went to the victim’s house. I saw the woman who lived there, who immediately told me he had made it.

Panic and chaos

I entered the living room, where a few days earlier, panic and chaos had reigned. The same living room was now tidy and quiet, which felt peculiar. The woman told me he was still in the hospital, but his attitude was coming back. For a moment I went completely silent, and I was overcome by an almost indescribable feeling: a mixture of hope, joy, excitement and happiness. A feeling I’ll never forget.

Here’s to life

We talked for two more hours, which really helped both myself and the family. This was a positive closure. I was even invited to have a cup of coffee with the victim himself. I’m going, and I want to look him in the eye and toast life with him.

Third resuscitation

This was my third resuscitation and the first one with a positive conclusion. The first two victims did not make it. Whatever the outcome, I am always thanked and appreciated after a resuscitation. That already helps a lot. I’m 19 years old, pretty young for a first responder. Every resuscitation impacts me, both negatively and positively. Despite this, I have never regretted my choice to become a first responder. It is an amazing feeling to make a difference this way, and I will definitely keep doing it.