1 August 2021 marked the first weekend of Chloe’s dad, Dan, and I having two weeks off, so we had lots of fun things planned. That afternoon an air ambulance landed nearby, and our 14-year-old daughter Chloe asked her dad if they could go and have a look. They got 20 yards from the back gate when, completely out of the blue, Chloe collapsed with a cardiac arrest.
Dan immediately dialled 999 before starting CPR, which he’s trained in because of his job as an electrician. He’d been on lots of courses over the years but never thought the first time he’d have to use his training would be on his own daughter.
By chance an ambulance was passing, so the paramedics got out to assist. Then we ended up with about five ambulances and police cars outside the house. It was like a scene out of a movie.
While Chloe was out there laying on the grass, she was given four shocks from a defibrillator to get her heart restarted. The paramedics managed to get her heart beating again but, to ensure she didn’t suffer too much damage, they intubated her before she was airlifted to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). Dan went in the helicopter, and I was blue lighted to GOSH.
While at the hospital, Chloe was kept in a neurological coma for 48 hours to protect her brain and give her time to recover. On the first night we arrived, we were provided with emergency accommodation and on the second day we were told there was somewhere for us both to stay in one of The Sick Children’s Trust’s ‘Homes from Home’. It was then arranged for us to meet with Tina, the Assistant House Manager, at Rainbow House.
“We were completely and utterly gobsmacked that we were able to stay so close to where Chloe was being treated without having to commute. We couldn’t believe it. Tina was amazing when she met us. She was so understanding and helped us to know that it was okay for us to get rest and look after ourselves, so we were able to look after our daughter.”
Chloe was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart muscle becomes unusually thick making it harder for the heart to pump blood. It’s an inherited condition she’s had from birth, but we weren’t aware of it. Some people go through life not knowing they have it and it’s only discovered in a post-mortem, other people find out when they have a routine operation and as with Chloe, the worst way it can present itself, through a cardiac arrest.
Three days after Chloe was admitted to hospital, the doctors took her off muscle suppressants and reduced the drugs that were keeping her in a coma. They told us it could be a slow process and, until she was awake, we wouldn’t know how she was going to be. That was frightening news to hear.
The doctors started the process that day and we were waiting, not expecting too much but remaining hopeful. It got to about seven o’clock and we were going to grab a cup of tea, so we gave Chloe a kiss and said we’d be back in a minute. As we went to walk away, she moved. So, we were like, “Stuff the cup of tea, we’re not going anywhere!” It was very slow but as we talked to her, she began responding. I said, “Chloe if you can hear mummy, can you squeeze mummy’s hand?” and she started to move her hand.
Over the next day or so she came round and was taken off her ventilator. By the end of the week, she was out of bed and sitting in a chair.
On 17 August Chloe had an operation to fit an Internal Cardiac Defibrillator (ICD), which monitors her heart rhythms and can send small shocks to her heart to help prevent any future cardiac arrests.
While Chloe underwent a long operation to have this fitted, we were terrified. For the first hour, we sat and cried. You try to say to yourself she’s in the best place possible, they do this all the time. However, at the end of the day, they haven’t done it on your child. Fortunately, the doctors were pleased with how the operation went and, shortly after, we were all able to come home.
We stayed at Rainbow House for three weeks while Chloe was in hospital. Without the accommodation we would have had to commute around 90 minutes from home on the trains as there’s no parking at GOSH.
“Having the ‘Home from Home’ was amazing as we could stay so close to the hospital. It gave Chloe the reassurance that mum and dad were only five minutes away.”
Since Chloe came home, she’s had one overnight stay in our local hospital and has appointments every three months at GOSH. Her ICD monitors her heart daily and she’s on beta blockers, a medication used for heart conditions. Chloe is now 15, back at school full-time and has recently completed her first lot of exams. On 1 August 2022, one year since Chloe went into cardiac arrest, we’re off on holiday. We’re going to turn that day into a happy day.
It’s remarkable all the things that Chloe has been through and overcome and The Sick Children’s Trust were there to support us all the way through. They take a huge weight off your shoulders and enable you to concentrate on your child’s care and recovery. We’ll be forever grateful.
Lita Andrews, Chloe’s mum