Sheila’s grand gesture to Swanage heroes who saved her life

Swanage woman Sheila Walker has presented £1,000 to the medical heroes who saved her life after an everyday medicine sent her into anaphylactic shock.

When she took a penicillin tablet in October 2023, as she had done countless times before, she felt a sudden tingling sensation in her hands and immediately knew that something was seriously wrong.

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Swanage Ambulance Car and community first responders helped to save Sheila’s life

First responders on constant call

As her throat swelled up and she started to struggle for breath, she had just enough time to tell her husband Nigel that she was feeling unwell before she passed out.

He phoned 999 immediately and the Swanage Ambulance Car paramedic was there within minutes, closely followed by volunteer community first responder Jonathan Greetham. He helped to administer a shot of adrenaline and oxygen – and said that her husband’s quick call had saved her life.

Adrenaline needs to be given as quickly as possible following a serious allergic reaction, as it reduces swelling and raises blood pressure, and without it anaphylaxis is frequently fatal.

But without Swanage’s first responders on constant call to react straight away, it could be too late for victims if an ambulance or ambulance car is dealing with a separate emergency.

Sheila raised £600 selling at a stall at Swanage Christmas Market in December 2023

“I was literally fighting for my life”

Sheila Walker said:

“Thank God for the responders, because I wouldn’t be here today if they hadn’t got here so quickly.

“I wanted to say thank you properly to them, so I did a fund raising stall at Swanage Christmas market. My family donated £400 and I raised another £600 selling Christmas gifts that people had donated – we didn’t stop all day.

“Charity shops donated items to sell and when people saw that I was raising funds for Swanage Hospital and the ambulance service, they came up to the stall with really generous donations.

“This is a thank you for them saving my life, I honestly wouldn’t be here today if they hadn’t acted so quickly. I was literally fighting for my life and can’t believe that I’m here now.”

At Swanage Con Club, left to right: Sue Whitton from the Friends of Swanage Hospital, Linda Welsh who helped organise the fund raising event, Sheila Walker, Maggie Hardy from Swanage and Purbeck Rotary and Swanage based community first responder Jonathan Greetham

Severe allergic reactions

Sheila also wants to warn that severe allergic reactions can happen unexpectedly to anyone of any age and now has to wear a bracelet to say she is allergic to penicillin, and carry an epipen just in case of another attack.

The £1,000 raised by Sheila and her friends – special thanks were made to Linda Welsh for helping with the sale – was handed over at Swanage Con Club on Wednesday 24th January 2024 and will be split equally between Swanage Hospital and the ambulance service.

Maggie Hardy, of Swanage and Purbeck Rotary Club, said that Rotarians had also raised £500 for the ambulance service and that the two sums together would help to provide a secluded garden at the ambulance station where staff can enjoy a quiet break between calls

Community first responders are volunteers who operate within their home towns, providing lifesaving emergency aid early and ahead of ambulance arrival.

The South Western Ambulance Service is supported by more than 800 community first responders, attending around 40,000 incidents each year, helping to save lives, reduce pain and provide reassurance to those requiring emergency care.

Sheila Walker raised £1,000 for Swanage's medical teams, pictured with Jonathan Greetham, Maggie Hardy and Sue Whitton

Sheila Walker felt compelled to raise funds for Swanage Hospital and the ambulance service as a thank you for saving her life

Swanage Fire crew also assisted

Jonathan Greetham, Swanage Salvation Army minister and former medic for the Royal Air Force, said:

“I’m a volunteer, trained medically by the ambulance service and I got there about four minutes after the ambulance car. Her husband was the one who saved her life, he made a very quick 999 call and everything clicked into place after that.

“We gave the appropriate treatment, an epipen injection of adrenaline and oxygen, and then continually monitored Sheila to make sure she was able to breathe and was getting enough oxygen.

“We also had to call in the fire service because it was difficult to get Sheila down her home’s very tight staircase and we needed a flexible stretcher, a bit like an inflatable mattress, to get her to a more conventional trolley stretcher at the front door.

Swanage Hospital MIU sign

Friends of Swanage Hospital received £500 to help support the invaluable local asset, that is facing a reduction in the number of clinics that it is allowed to offer, plus the cut back in hours of the minor injuries unit

Providing a vital service for the town

Jonathan Greetham added:

“Swanage has three community first responders and very often if the ambulance and the ambulance car are on other emergency calls we can provide a valuable backup delivering life saving care until the ambulance backs us up.

“We provide a vital service for the town as we can be on the scene quickly to provide immediate treatment, but a lot of people still don’t know anything about us.

“We are volunteers and we always need more to come forward. We are given the training and skills to help us cope with medical emergencies and I look on it as putting something back into the community.”

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