Burton Latimer mum praises ambulance workers who saved her son's life after holiday collapse

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A Burton Latimer mum whose son had a cardiac arrest on holiday has praised the ambulance workers who saved his life.

When 20-year-old Matthew Pharaoh collapsed at his family’s accommodation in Llandudno, north Wales, it was his quick-thinking mum Tracey who began the chain of survival.

The 56-year-old advanced nurse practitioner immediately recognised that her son had stopped breathing and rang 999.

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She said: “Matthew suddenly stopped communicating and I could tell something wasn’t right.

Tracey Pharaoh with her son MatthewTracey Pharaoh with her son Matthew
Tracey Pharaoh with her son Matthew

“Shortly afterwards he collapsed and I could see from the colour of his face and the way he was lying on the ground that he wasn’t breathing.

“I was on my own with Matthew and knew that getting help to him as quickly as possible was crucial if he was going to have any chance of surviving.”

She was connected to Welsh Ambulance Service call handler Esyllt Edwards, who immediately began to organise help and talked Tracey through CPR while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

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Despite having delivered CPR many times over her 30-year career, Tracey had never done it outside a hospital setting.

She said: “Esyllt was fantastic and kept talking to me throughout, making sure that we did everything possible to give Matthew a fighting chance.”

Aron Roberts, a Cymru High Acuity Response Unit paramedic in Colwyn Bay, was among the first to arrive on scene along with advanced paramedic practitioner Maria Laffey.

Aron said: “When we arrived we made our way up three flights of stairs with our equipment to find Matthew in cardiac arrest in the living room, with his mum giving CPR under the call taker’s instructions.

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“A second crew arrived and took over CPR while we attached the defibrillator and found him to be in VF (ventricular fibrillation), so we delivered a shock.”

However, the crew now faced the difficult task of extracting Matthew from the third floor of the holiday apartment.

Maria said: “We needed to transfer Matthew down three flights of narrow, winding stairs to the ambulance during heavy rain before he could be taken to hospital.

“This presented us with a number of difficulties, and we had to stop several times to reassess Matthew and make sure it was still safe to continue.”

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The crew eventually made it safely to the ambulance and Matthew was taken to Ysbyty Glan Clwyd where he was heavily sedated in order to aid his recovery – but he was far from being out of danger.

Since birth Matthew also had DiGeorge syndrome, a condition that can cause a range of lifelong problems, including heart defects and learning difficulties.

As a result, he required open heart surgery when he was nine-months-old and, more recently, a valve replacement in 2021.

Following his arrival at hospital, Tracey had the difficult task of contacting her husband Alex, a forklift engineer who was on a cycling holiday in Spain, who rushed home on the first available flight.

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Tracey, Alex and Matthew were reunited in the hospital where Matthew improved over several weeks and he is now almost fully recovered.

Tracey said: “On behalf of myself, Alex and Matthew, we can’t thank the crew or the call handler enough.

“What they did was amazing and even after more than three decades as a nurse, I’m still in awe of these remarkable people.”

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