Rosie Morrison had been suffering chest pain for two days, but when she visited her GP in Dunvegan on the morning of 6th January this year an electrocardiogram examination did not show any irregularities.
Stomach acid seemed the most likely cause of her discomfort but she was advised to seek a further blood test at Portree. Her husband Raymond then drove her the 25 miles, and this decision not to delay proved crucial.
Minutes after the 45-year-old from Orbost arrived at the hospital’s reception area she collapsed.
But the reaction to the collapse could not have been more swift, showcasing the talents and skills of the health care teams who sprung into action.
Nursing staff performed CPR, with ambulance paramedics quickly on the scene to transfer Rosie to Broadford.
Further treatment continued for around five hours at the Dr MacKinnon Memorial Hospital before the emergency medical retrieval service arrived to take Rosie by helicopter to Aberdeen.
Freezing fog over the Cairngorms rerouted the helicopter to Inverness and meant the final leg of the journey was completed by road ambulance – but the next day Rosie had two stents fitted to clear an arterial blockage.
Now back at home, walking regularly and keen to restart her self-catering business as soon as restrictions allow, Rosie told the Free Press: “I have been a gardener for 20 years and I walk for an hour or two every morning – I had considered myself fairly fit and healthy and there was little indication of any problem.
“But they told me I had a small ‘wiggle’ in my artery, which I’ve now had straightened out and I have had two stents fitted.
“It may have been a genetic condition that caused it. Two of my grandparents had heart problems but they died such a long time ago so we don’t know for sure.”
Rosie was later told that in the days prior to going to the GP it was likely she had suffered a heart attack and hadn’t realised.
She added: “I had never suffered bad indigestion before but it seemed that’s what it felt like.
“Looking back, I had also struggled a bit when throwing a ball to my dogs while out for a walk on the beach – there was a pain in the top of my arm.
“I feel very lucky that my GP sent me to Portree.
“There were so many people involved in helping to save my life – from the GP, to an intern in Portree, to experienced nurses and doctors, ambulance staff and the helicopter team – they were all just amazing.
“I was incredibly lucky in that I was in hospital when it happened. Anywhere else and I probably would not be alive.
“Fortunately, I was surrounded by people who knew exactly what to do in the situation.
“I would just like to say one big well done and thank you to them all.”
Rosie’s GP Stephen Moran said: “Rosie is young – and this is unusual in someone this age. It was shocking to later hear what had happened to her.
“When you suffer a cardiac arrest you need to be resuscitated within minutes in order to survive. I visited Rosie’s husband later in the day, and where they live is very remote. If you suffered a cardiac arrest there, it is highly unlikely you’d survive.
“But from the hospital onwards the chain from person to person worked perfectly.
“I couldn’t have been more pleased to hear how it turned out.”
Lead clinician for emergency and rural medicine at Broadford Dr Al Innes, who continued to resuscitate Rosie, said: “When a heart stops beating you are against the clock. In situations like this one, teams have to react fast and that’s where all the years of training kicks in.
“Everything worked as well as it could have. From the nursing practitioners in the first place, to the ambulance guys and the emergency medical retrieval service from Aberdeen.
“With Coronavirus it has been a tough year in the health service and it can affect morale. So when you get a good news story like that, and when you hear that just over a week later Rosie walked out of hospital, it was real vindication for all the team and what we do.”
Ambulance paramedic Graeme Deas added: “It all happened very quickly – we were actually driving through the village when we got the call.
“It was an excellent multi-disciplinary effort. In all there was between 20 and 30 people involved. It was a very satisfying outcome.”
Advanced nurse practitioner Janice Stephenson helped perform CPR on Rosie – first along with student nursing colleague Craig Samson, and then joined by GP Dr Philippa Marson.
Janice said: “The last time I was involved in the resuscitation of a cardiac patient like that was 25 years ago when I was a student nurse.
“You never quite know how you’ll react until it happens. But all you can do is go through all the drills and the training you have. And it can’t be about one person – it’s about a team and about having colleagues beside you that you can rely on.
“I am just glad she’s ok and we could help – it is what we’re there for.”
Article by Keith MacKenzie