“Woah! What’s going on? You don’t see that on a dental course”
In the run-up to Restart a Heart Day, here is one dentist’s story of how CPR training was a lifesaver
It was 8am and Declan Cairns, who qualified as a dentist from Glasgow in 2016, was starting a shift at MyDentist in the Tesco Superstore at Maryhill. “Someone came in and said there had been an incident outside,” he said. “Then, a second person came in who was actually a dentist and knew there would be a defib in the dental practice. She said someone had had a suspected cardiac arrest in the car park.”
Declan, 26, grabbed the defib and Victoria Quezel, the practice nurse, took the medical bag – and the pair, joined by a third colleague, dentist Kelly Ntaoutidou, rushed to the scene. “As we got there, the ambulance crew arrived almost simultaneously – and we just slotted in and around what was going on,” recalled Declan. He and his colleagues took it in turns to carry out chest compressions, use a bag valve mask, and apply the defibrillator.
“Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the paramedics drilling into man’s knee and thought, ‘Woah! What’s going on?’. You don’t see that on any dental course,” said Declan. In the absence of an accessible vein for injection, the ambulance crew were preparing for an intraosseous infusion of drugs into the bone.
For Declan, events took a slightly surreal turn when he realised the victim was a patient; it meant he could race back to the surgery and retrieve his up-to-date medical history.
“The irony was that, previously, the gentleman had come in for an extraction, but we had to decline because his history wasn’t up to date,” he said. “And then he came back for an emergency extraction, this time with his up-to-date completed list of medications. So, it meant that we were able to provide the crew with what we knew was the correct information.”
After about eight to ten minutes, the man began breathing and he was taken to hospital. “But we didn’t hear anything after that, and it wasn’t until one day I looked at a name in the appointments book, looked out into the waiting area – and there he was. It was the nearest I’ve come to seeing a ghost!
“I asked him how he was, and he said, ‘I’ve been better!’ He’d been in intensive care for a month and had a pacemaker fitted. Until this point, he hadn’t realised I had been there. And, with typical Glasgow humour, he said, ‘Were you the bastard who gave me a doin’?’, because of the pain he felt in his ribs for days afterwards. It bought back the memory of someone in dental school asking in the CPR class, ‘What if we break someone’s ribs?’ And the lecturer replying, ‘A person who’s alive will thank you; a dead person can’t.’”
The Scottish Government began a roll-out of defibrillators to NHS dentists in 2014. “We’re hearing more and more stories of dental teams delivering CPR, but mostly they don’t get to hear the outcome,” said Lezley Ann Walker, a tutor at Glasgow Dental School. “In this instance, we have the full journey; student receives training…becomes a dentist…delivers CPR…patient survives.”
Restart a Heart Day, 16 October, find out more