Interview with Neville and Deborah Teague
Extract: MHF Life, 1st Edition, 2018
Publishing Partner: Access News
Deborah Teague knows CPR can save lives. She used it to help bring her father back when he collapsed in her home of sudden cardiac arrest.
Now the tight-knit father and daughter are urging others to learn the lifesaving technique.
“I wasn’t going to let him die on me, that’s for sure,” said Deborah through tears, the details of that night in March last year still raw more than a year later.
That afternoon, Neville had popped over to his daughter’s south-east Sydney unit to walk her dog. He was cooking dinner when she arrived home and in the few minutes it took Deborah to race upstairs to change, Neville began to feel unwell.
“He had blacked out and collapsed on me,” she said. “I knew straight away something was very wrong. I got him flat on the floor and reached for my phone and rang triple zero.”
By coincidence, Deborah had completed a CPR refresher course just two weeks earlier and immediately sprang into action.
“Very quickly it came back to me,” she said.
Deborah was on the phone to emergency services the entire almost 10 minutes it took for an ambulance to arrive, relentlessly administering vital chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Her concentration was broken only when paramedics took over but it took a staggering 54 minutes before they were able to get Neville’s heart beating again just as they arrived at St Vincent’s Hospital.
“In the emergency department I heard them call for transport to ICU and I just knew it was for dad and at that point I thought ‘He’s going to be ok’.”
Undoubtedly, without CPR and Deborah’s rapid response, Neville would have died.
Neville said he has no recollection of the events that night beyond feeling “a bit woozy” and sitting on the lounge.
“I can only imagine how distressing it must have been to see me like that,” he said.
Neville now knows the odds were stacked against him. Only nine per cent of people who suffer a sudden cardiac arrest outside of hospital survive. And without CPR, the statistics are even worse – with no intervention, a person in cardiac arrest will suffer brain damage within four minutes. After eight minutes, there is little chance of survival.
“I was saved because Deborah was there,” he said. “She had done CPR training, the ambulance was not too far away and I was in reasonable distance from the hospital. I’m a really lucky bloke.”
While CPR is vital to survival, the harsh reality is that intervention can also be challenging.
Have a go
“The first 30 compressions were hard. It doesn’t feel nice because you’re pushing hard on bone and you can hear the crunching but it’s necessary to get the blood flowing,” Deborah said.
“And after a while your back hurts but you must push through. It’s not pretty to see and it’s confronting but by talking about it, I hope others will see it is normal and they will be less scared.
“The important thing is to call triple zero (000) and start CPR. If you haven’t done it before, NSW Ambulance will talk you through it.”
It’s hard to imagine how the pair, who would talk several times a day on the phone, could be any closer but Neville’s near death did just that.
“We are extraordinarily close,” Deborah said.
Neville, who now has an implanted cardioverter defibrillator that monitors his heart rhythm, has joined the Michael Hughes Foundation as a Director, helping to spread the organisation’s mission of turning bystanders into first responders. “Every second counts and everything you do can help to save a life. Don’t be afraid, have a go,” he said. “CPR does save lives. I’m living proof.”
Deborah Teague’s experience as a first responder was the inspiration for the Foundation’s #First Responder series sharing personal experiences of cardiac arrest.