A hospital matron was saved by her colleagues when she suffered a heart attack at work.
Liz Hutchison was minutes from death due to a rare cardiac defect when cardiologist Dr Ahmed Elghamaz managed to restore the blood flow to her heart.
A colleague had persuaded her to undergo an ECG (electrocardiogram) scan when she complained of chest pain, and this revealed there had been unusual changes to her heart.
She was rushed to the catheter lab at Northwick Park hospital in Harrow, where she is the cardiology matron. An angiogram revealed she was suffering from spontaneous coronary artery dissection, preventing blood flowing to her heart.
“I was so lucky that I was at work at the time,” Mrs Hutchison, 57, told the Standard. “Dr Elghamaz said to me if I had ignored it and got in my car to go home, I wouldn’t have survived.
“His prompt action saved my life that day. He literally had seconds, minutes, to get a stent in there to allow blood flow. He is my knight in shining armour.”
Mrs Hutchison thought the pain in her chest was a pulled muscle – she had been doing a “planking” challenge earlier in the week – but when it returned she agreed to be checked over. “It went from my chest into my armpit, and I mentioned it to my team mate, who said, let’s do an ECG,” she said.
“They did the angiogram radially, through the wrist. I was watching the screen, and everything looked fine. Then they did a couple more shots, and I remember Ahmed saying ‘What the hell is that?’ and asking for a stent.
”I knew something was happening, but I was just thinking, ‘That’s an awfully large stent.’ One of my colleagues said, ‘Shall we put the call out?’ – meaning the cardiac arrest call – and the next thing I remember is opening my eyes and seeing the anaesthetist standing over me.”
Mrs Hutchison did not go into cardiac arrest but her blood pressure and heart rate were dropping, and the team was on the verge of intubating her to take over her breathing.
Dr Elghamaz, who was the cardiac consultant on duty that day, said: “It was the worst dissection I have ever seen. It progressed so quickly while we were operating, which is uncommon, and we almost had to revive her.
“It was so dramatic. Half the staff were pretty much crying and almost saying goodbye. Another minute or two and she would not have made it. When you’re working with the heart, you only have a very short window of time. We had to act very quickly. The nurses were heroic – I needed tools very quickly and they just focused on what they were doing and helped me.”
Mrs Hutchson, a grandmother, has fully recovered since the incident in March, and began running mini marathons again in June. She has returned to work and wants to raise awareness of spontaneous coronary artery dissection, which affects about one per cent of heart attack patients.
Dr Elghamaz said: “I’ve known her for the best part of 10 years – so have many of the team. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever faced, operating on her, but she’s well now and that’s the most important thing.”