Leanne Perrin with one of the ambulance officers who saved her life, Katrina Mister. Photo: Jonty Dine.

‘I was dead for 13 minutes’ Leanne meets her lifesavers after heart attack

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Leanne Perrin has been given a second chance at life.

The 45-year-old was dead for 13 minutes following a heart attack a few weeks ago. However, she was miraculously back on her feet within days of the life-changing incident.

Leanne had been with friends the night before when she felt the pain in her chest at about 8am the next morning. She told her friend to call the ambulance, and that was her last memory of the day.

Paramedic Katrina Mister and EMT Max Wells were the first on the scene and found Leanne unresponsive so they began the defibrillation process as her ten-year-old son Rory stayed by her side.

The ambulance officers needed to break ribs and drill into her leg to administer intravenous drugs during the resuscitation.

Leanne also contracted pneumonia following her surgery.

With her heart now down to just 15 per cent function, she is limited to only ten minutes of walking per day. However, she is just grateful to be alive.

“Before this, I took my life for granted.”

Last week, Leanne was able to personally thank the two people who helped bring her back from the brink. It was an emotional reunion as Leanne embraced her lifesavers.

“It is very exciting to see someone do so well after dying in front of us,” says Katrina.

She says it meant a lot to get such a great result.

“We don’t manage to help everybody, but she called us just in time.”

Max says there was a large team that played a big part in Leanne’s recovery.

“We are two cogs in a big machine.”

Katrina says there was no doubt that Leanne calling the ambulance when she did saved her life.

“If she had ignored her chest pain, she wouldn’t be here right now. It’s not just the elderly who have heart attacks.”

St John assistant director of clinical capability and resources Kris Gagliardi says this is a great example of ambulance officers quickly recognising that the patient was in cardiac arrest and immediately using a defibrillator to restore a normal heart rhythm.

After Leanne’s heart was restarted, the crew performed an electrocardiogram (ECG) reading and determined that the patient was suffering from a ‘STEMI’ (ST-elevation myocardial infarction).

This is the most lethal form of heart attack caused by a complete blockage in one of the major arteries in the heart.

Kris says clot busting medicine, called fibrinolysis, was administered by the officers to unblock the artery and reduce damage to Leanne’s heart.

“This is a new treatment that has just been rolled out across New Zealand by St John, and in previous years was only available in hospitals.”

Leanne says it took a while to come to terms with the reality of what she went through.

“I was in denial for a little while.”

However, the mother of four says she has now made a number of lifestyle changes, no longer drinking alcohol or smoking.

“It feels like a second chance and I have a new view on life.”