A TEARFUL grandmother came face to face with a handful of total strangers whose combined efforts brought her back from the dead.
The reunion took place on platform four of Lancaster Railway Station, where Bridget Brice, 71, from Ulverston, collapsed with a cardiac arrest while boarding a train to London, in November, to meet her husband.
Lying ‘purple and with no pulse’ on the platform, the odds were heavily stacked against the former receptionist’s survival.
But, by chance, her saviours were miraculously close by.
The passenger boarding behind her was Shelley McKenna, 40, from Barrow, who only two weeks previously had undergone a first aid training course.
Having made sure Mrs Brice’s airway was clear and put her in the recovery position, her friend shouted for help and called 999.
Quickly on the scene was fellow passenger and trainee nurse Alisdair Gavan, 29, of Lancaster.
Two weeks previously he had done two training courses in administering cardio pulmonary resuscitation and quickly set to work.
Also on the train was Carnforth GP Dr David Wrigley who, hearing it had been delayed, went to investigate.
Most crucial of all was the rapid use of a publicly-accessible defibrillator at the station, which Virgin Train staff member Keith Sweeney applied to her chest.
It was this £800 equipment which delivered life-saving jolts of electricity to first stop Mrs Brice’s irregular heart spasm, and restart its natural rhythm – just as paramedics arrived.
The North West Ambulance Service hailed it as a perfect response in the ‘chain of survival’ – the actions needed to help someone survive cardiac arrest in a public place.
Mrs Brice was in intensive care and in hospital for 17 days, but recovered sufficiently to enjoy a family Christmas with her three daughters.
An emotional Mrs Brice, of Soutergate, said: “I stopped independently breathing for 15 minutes and all of these people helped keep me alive.”
Daughter Emily, 40, of Swarthmoor, a nurse, said: “How lucky was it that mum was in the right place at the right time. If she had been on the train, or at home, the end result could have been very different.
“We need to promote having defibrillators in public places and the training to use them in the community.”
Dr David Wrigley recalled: “She was extremely unwell. She looked very poorly and in those scenarios you fear the worst.”
He praised the actions of train staff, saying: “It was a textbook response. The defib was used quickly, the staff were fantastic and everybody played their part brilliantly.”
Alisdair added: “To know she had a nice Christmas with her family is just brilliant.”
Mrs Brice’s husband John, a retired doctor in Ulverston, gave his full support to the campaign by the NWAS to get more defibrillators in public places.
It is led by Grange-based David Webster, of the NWAS, who said: “The longer you wait until someone comes with a defibrillator, the more your chances of survival decrease.
“All of these people knew exactly what to do, and did it quickly, and it’s as simple as that.”
Find out more about the initiative at www.cardiac smart.nwas.nhs.uk