Brian's story

Brian Skeete says he will forever be thankful for Wiltshire Air Ambulance after suffering a cardiac arrest at the height of the Covid pandemic in July 2020.
Brian's story

Swindon-based Brian, then 58, has no recollection of the event itself and has little memory of the days leading up to the incident and several days afterwards.

He said: “I know I went out for a cycle by St James Place near Wanborough with my friends Shane and Steve. They were slightly in front of me and I then veered off into a field due to the cardiac event.

“My friends called the ambulance, with Steve speaking to the ambulance service and Shane undertaking CPR. I’m told he was doing it for around 20 minutes before the ambulances arrived and then Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s helicopter.”

James Hubbard was one of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance critical care paramedics who attended the incident. He recalled: “We landed close by, actually in the field Brian had ended up in.

“It was at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, so the first thing we had to do was get into our full protective suits.

A photo of a paramedic in full hazmat PPE ascending metal stairs with a red kit bag on their back.

“We had a handover from the ambulance crew. Brian had been in cardiac arrest for some time and the arrhythmia he was in was not responding to shocks. As a critical care team we changed the position of the shock pads and put the LUCAS (Chest Compression System) machine to get consistent compressions. We also increased the energy settings on the defibrillator.

“Brian was administered an anti-arrhythmic, which the ambulance crews don’t carry, and fortunately within a few minutes we got a return of circulation and a pulse."

James Hubbard, Critical Care Paramedic

"Then it was all about optimising everything after that to stabilise Brian by putting him on the ventilator and taking over his breathing.

“There was a discussion about where to take Brian, which is the beauty of having the helicopter. Great Western Hospital in Swindon doesn’t provide the kind of cardiac surgery required out of hours on a Sunday, and we knew it was a strong possibility Brian may require that, so then we spoke to John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxfordshire and decided there was the best place for him.

“We gave Brian more drugs to sedate him, manage his pain and paralysed him so we could take over his ventilation ahead of the flight. It was around a 12-minute flight to the hospital.”

Brian was kept in an induced coma for three days and spent ten days in total at the hospital.

His wife Charlie recalls the moment she found out the news. She said: “I had been out with my daughter and I got a phone call from the Police. They said they wouldn’t talk to me until I had pulled over. They sent a Police car to come and get me and follow Brian to John Radcliffe.

“I really didn’t know he could die; I wasn’t told very much at all. With Covid, the hardest thing was being so isolated. I was on my own in the family room, just sat there waiting.

“They eventually let me go into the resuscitation unit to see Brian and give him a kiss, but it was an awful experience. No one else was being allowed to be there and you understand why, but it was just so hard.”

Brian had no prior warning of the cardiac incident he suffered that day. He was a keen sportsman who enjoyed natural body building, five-a-side football, rugby and running. His sister is Lesley Ann Skeete, who competed for Great Britain at the 1988 and 1992 Olympics.

He has since had an ICD (implantable cardioverter defibrillator) fitted, which has been triggered several times and is undergoing tests to discover if the arrhythmia is genetic.

“It’s important to find out for my family, so I can say to them rule out this or be aware of that,” adds Brian.

“My sister is an accomplished athlete and my brother still plays five-a-side football. It’s not until this happens that you really think about all these things.

“I’ve started rehabilitation and I have been on the bike again since, albeit riding in stages.”

In March 2023 Brian and his family visited Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s airbase in Semington, near Trowbridge, to meet with some of the crew that helped save his life.

“In our family Wiltshire Air Ambulance has fans for life! We are significant advocates for the service because without you things could have been so different.

Brian Skeete, patient

“To come in and meet the crew has been tremendous and closes another chapter of my life really, learning about everything that happened and all the things the team did to save me.

“I can’t thank Wiltshire Air Ambulance enough.”

Meet the aircrew from this mission

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