Unlike most victims and survivors of cardiac arrest, when Chris Solomons’ heart stopped beating, he was being filmed by the BCC. The documentary crew that had been creating a series about his air ambulance team captured Chris when he crawled into work suffering from a “widow maker” heart attack. Thanks to the professionalism and actions of his paramedic colleagues, Chris was revived by an AED machine and transported to the hospital.
Watch the footage and hear Chris share his story of survival!
In this video you’ll learn…
- How an AED was used to restart Chris’ heart
- What a widow maker heart attack feels like
- What cardiac arrest can look like
- How Chris miraculously made it to work
- (00:00) The beginning of Chris’ widow maker heart attack
- (02:14) Chris tries to call 999 or 911
- (03:07) Chris crawls into work
- (04:11) Video of cardiac arrest and CPR
- (05:00) Video of AED shock
- (08:21) Chris begins speaking at conferences and workshops around the world
- How to Save a Life From Sudden Cardiac Arrest
- Another Story of Widow Maker Survival
- More Survivor Stories
- Recognize the Symptoms of a Heart Attack and Call 911
Hi, my name’s Chris Solomons. I’m from the United Kingdom. I worked for the Yorkshire Ambulance Service and I’m a cardiac arrest survivor. My story dates back to July, 2010 on the 24th of July. I got up for work and I worked on the air ambulance at the time, As normal, the usual couple of cigarettes, coffee, got dressed, got shaved, got in the car, went to the shop to get what we call in the UK, the full Monte menu. Jeez. Bacon, eggs, mushrooms before meeting the guys back at the airport. Bought another packet of cigarettes, went up and I got a bit of a twinge in my chest. I’m thinking, Hm, forget it. Carry on. Yeah, I guess onto the motorway towards the airport, which is 25 minutes away. And I’m thinking this doesn’t feel right. Does not feel right. Yes, I could have gone back home, but there’d be nobody at home, so I probably wouldn’t be here today.
So I just carried on driving. And by this time my hands were, had gone into spasms on the steering wheel. The pain was really bad. I got pins and needles in both arms so you’re not, so you assume you should be pulling over. Which I didn’t cause we mind saying your colleagues are at work. Nobody’s seen. Can I pull over and get something done? Mind won. So carried on driving and by this time I looked really bad looking into my rear view mirror. I looked, my head was like on the side and the arms on the car steering wheel like this and I’m driving at 50 mile an hour on a motorway and then I get to a point where I get pins and needles in both legs. So just imagine both arms, both legs, pins and needles. Given a metal object, 50 mile an hour possibly having a heart attack, which I assume was happening to me anyway, carrying on, carrying on, driving got to a certain point again and I’m thinking I’m going to have to pull over, try and get my phone out of my pocket.
Tried to ring 999 or 911 pulled over and as I’m coming down this hill, there’s delay by, and this lady normally is in a white van. A lady sells flowers and she’s there 365 days of the year. Not today. She wasn’t. So I pulled in anyway, couldn’t get my phone out and I thought, I’m five minutes from the airport. Let’s carry on again. The pain’s really bad. I mean that much pain. Felt like someone was pulling a rope wrapped around me and pulling it tighter and tighter. That’s how the pain is. If you’ve heard the saying, having an elephant sitting on your chest, probably worse than that. That’s what the pain felt like. Anyway, carry on. Driving. I went the back roads because I thought if I’m going to go, I don’t want to be taking anybody else out. I got to the airport, I fell out of my car and the keys fell on the floor. I picked them up, got the fob to get in. As I crawled in. Literally I turned the corner and one of the paramedics, James was there and he took one look and he just shouted to his colleague, Lee, “get the defib, get this, get that. Chris isn’t right.”
He lifted me up, sat me in the chair also, there was the pilot. Steve and a gentleman from the BBC were there filming the TV series called the Australian ambulance. They’ve been with us five years at this time, so they become part of the team, part of the crew and very good friends and his name was John and he decided to get his camera. I thought, fine, a bit of television fame for Chris here, and he actually turned around to one of the paramedics and said to him, he said, Oh God, if Chris is going to go on, we’re going to have to put up with Dave today. They knew what was going to happen within the next 15 minutes. Basically from that point onwards, I’ve got no memory but five minutes before I’ve got no memory until they’ve got me on the aircraft with it being filmed.
That is my memory from what I can understand is within 10 minutes of getting into work, I went into VF arrest. They put me off the chair onto the floor. James did the ordeal, actually fractured my sternum, which we didn’t know at the point at that time, did a couple of compressions. He heard the big cracks. So we knew he was doing it right. So they just carried on doing their job.
They then flew into the least general infirmary, which is the specialist hospital, which was five minutes away. Prior to that they were struggling, there was a point where I would have, I might have had to go by land, which they did get to come to the airport. So there were the two paramedics off the air ambulance plus the crew on the road. I mean an hour in whether they could get me to the aircraft because with it being a Saturday, the helipad didn’t open till eight o’clock. And the guys that run the helipad, in the hospital that fire trained, they were actually on the way to work a good mile away from the hospital. They get a phone call from their manager because Steve called the pilot and said, can you get all the old guys and get them to open the air and explain the situation to them.
He managed to get hold of them. They jumped off the bus, ran the whole way up, four flights of stairs to open the helipad so they could fly me in. Luckily I got flown in, and went out to the cath lab where they put a stent in. It was a complete blockage of me left anterior descending. I may or may not actually, and it was the blockage was right at the point which is known as the widow maker. This is what James told me. So I was very lucky. I spent four or five hours in the least general. Then they transferred me to a local hospital. I was only in hospital four days, four days after what happened.
And then you hear stories where people are in three or four weeks. So yeah, I was in hospital for days and then I was off for what, three months? We tend to work on what we call a return to work program, in which you do so many hours one day and so many days a week. Then you just gradually build it up. After three months, I was signed off as I could go back to work. I stayed on the ambulance for about another year. In the meantime, before that, I started to get phone calls from when they showed the program on the TV. I was getting phone calls. Chris, would you come and do a talk for us? We’d like to show you a DVD, blah, blah, blah. I got one phone call from one of my bosses and it was clear, yes, Trevor, would you like to go to America?
Okay, what’s the catch? No catch. Just do this. It gave me all the details, and managed to get ahold of whoever was in charge at the time. So in 2010 I came to the ECCQ, which is now, this is now called CARS, which was at a conference for the 50th anniversary of the introduction of modern CPR as we knew it. So they wanted 50 survivors from around the world. They got 50 survivors from around the world, 49 from America and Canada and me from the rest of the world. So yeah, and that’s what started this all off. Basically it’s catapulted me all over the world. I’m really grateful for that because I’m getting my story out. I’m making people aware of what’s happening. I mean, I’ve been to America what, five times now? I’ve been to Dubai, Barcelona, Belfast, Dublin, Amsterdam, Scotland, Wales, and God knows how many times I’ve done nothing down our main motorways in the United Kingdom to various conferences.
I must do at least a dozen to two dozen talks a year to various organizations. And every month I do a talk for locals in my area for local community first responders, new ones that come on board. And basically what we do, we scare the living daylights out of them. I’d sit outside in a different room. They’ll show the DVD with instructors, Laura and John, and they’ll say something about really like tonight, Chris is getting on and off they start blah blah blah. And then I’ll just walk in and it should see the faces of these people, and they can’t believe that they’re actually meeting a survivor. I’ve seen him die on tele in combat CPR, learn how to do CPR, no matter how old you are. Anybody can do CPR, finding training, class learning another thing, get it taught in schools. I know in the United Kingdom as of next year is going to be part of the curriculum. Yeah, we have this restart to heart day every year for the last five years, which I’m proud to say the service were the instigators of. He went nationally in the UK, then it went international last year and it’s gone worldwide this year. So yeah, CPR is important. Bystander, don’t be scared. Don’t be scared.
The units that we’ve got out there, whether they’d be Zoles, Phillips, you name it, whatever companies, are brilliant, they’re easy to use. A chimpanzee can use an AED. The only downside to it is they are expensive. They come back a little bit cheaper than people might want to say, “Yeah, we want one for our school” because believe it or not, some schools in the UK won’t have a defibrillator, an AED on their premises because they’re too expensive. And who’s going to keep the maintenance up? Other than that, all AEDs, they’ll do exactly the same no matter which company is always in the right place at the right time.