Press release

Environment Agency staff win National Lifesaver Award

The life-saving actions of two Environment Agency employees has landed them a national award.

Lifesavers Rob Nichols and Marcus Fry receiving their SADS UK National Lifesaver Award from Anne Jolly MBE and SADS UK Patron Dr Hilary Jones
Lifesavers Rob Nichols and Marcus Fry receiving their SADS UK National Lifesaver Award from Anne Jolly MBE and SADS UK Patron Dr Hilary Jones

Marcus Fry and Rob Nichols travelled to London at the weekend to collect their award from SADS UK, a national charity that campaigns to prevent loss of life from Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome.

The pair swung into action after a colleague collapsed at the Environment Agency’s head office in Horizon House, Bristol. The victim, a woman, was unresponsive and struggling to breathe.

First-aider Marcus started administering cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), then realised he could also deploy an automatic external defibrillator to prevent the risk of brain damage until an ambulance arrived. Software contractor Rob Nichols took over CPR while Marcus powered up the defibrillator.

Project manager Marcus, 55, of Thornbury, said:

These things work on a fluttering heart, so while Rob, a volunteer with West Midlands Ambulance Service, continued the CPR, I put the pads on the patient. The machine did an analysis and instructed us to continue mouth-to-mouth and CPR. After 2 to 3 minutes the paramedics arrived, followed by an ambulance carrying larger equipment, and then a doctor by helicopter.

After 20 minutes the medics stabilised the patient before taking her to hospital, where she was slowly awakened and treated for her heart condition.

Richard Houghton, Deputy Director, Health, Safety and Wellbeing at the Environment Agency said:

We are very proud and grateful of our quick-thinking colleagues whose calmness and first aid knowledge saved their workmate’s life. The health, safety and wellbeing of our workforce is paramount for the Environment Agency, and I congratulate Marcus and Rob on winning this award.

Rapid treatment is essential when someone suffers Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) and the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. If this happens, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs.

A defibrillator sends an electric shock to the heart to restore its normal rhythm. Prompt treatment increases a victim’s chances of survival and reduces the risk of brain damage. Without rapid treatment only around 8% of people survive without neurological damage so every minute counts.

The Environment Agency colleague, after her recovery, said:

I feel like the luckiest person in the world. Marcus and Rob provided the assistance I needed with minimum delay. Their actions were impeccable. I was in hospital for 2 days in an induced coma and thankfully hadn’t suffered any neurological damage when I came around.

In a statement read out at Saturday’s awards ceremony the colleague said, “There are no words in any language that can express the feeling of being resuscitated. They just didn’t give up on me. Gratitude is massive. But yet ‘gratitude’ feels like such a small word.”

Anne Jolly MBE, founder of SADS UK, said:

SADS UK commend the lifesaving action taken by Rob and Marcus. It is good to know there was a defibrillator on the premises and that the Environment Agency has installed more at other offices since this incident.

The introduction of the automatic external defibrillator to the Environment Agency’s Bristol office can be credited to the experience of former Bolton Wanderers’ Fabrice Muamba. When he was aged 23, Fabrice suffered cardiac arrest during a match against Tottenham Hotspurs and was resuscitated after his heart stopped beating for 7 minutes.

Marcus was presented with a Lifepak defibrillator that he is donating to Yatton Keynell Village Hall, Wiltshire.

Published 22 November 2017