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Thanks for Toddler's Life-saving Clinicians

13 April 2017

For ambulance clinician Lisa Derbyshire, job satisfaction doesn’t get any better than seeing a toddler whose life she saved, battle against all odds back to good health.

When Lisa responded to an emergency at a home in Hull Road, York, on 15 February 2017 she was faced with lifeless Poppy Palmer who had stopped breathing in her mother’s arms after suffering a heart attack which triggered a cardiac arrest.

She promptly started to resuscitate the 14-month-old using rescue breaths and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and within a few minutes, Poppy started responding to her life-saving efforts.

But this was just the beginning of a traumatic journey for Poppy and her family. For the tot suffered another cardiac arrest in hospital as well as two strokes. She was given a slim chance of survival and was on life-support for almost a week before she started to show signs of improvement.

Nearly two months have now passed and Poppy has defied all odds to make a remarkable recovery.

Grateful parents John Palmer and Elaine Smith invited Lisa to their home so they could pass on their heartfelt thanks for the vital role she played in saving their daughter’s life.
Lisa said: “When I first got the call to help Poppy back in February she was showing no signs of life, so to go back into the same room a few weeks later and see her crawling and playing like any other toddler was amazing; it made me feel really teary.

“I was two minutes away when I got the call; I just happened to be in the right place at the right time and was able to give Poppy the help she needed when she needed it. I just did what I was trained to do and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.”

Mum Elaine said: “Poppy was minutes from death, the situation was that grave, and if it hadn’t been for Lisa’s efforts that night she wouldn’t have made it to hospital for the medical care to continue – she is incredible and we can’t thank her enough.

“Every single medical professional along the way, from those at the ambulance service to York Hospital and Leeds General Infirmary, was amazing; they do their job with such calm, poise and professionalism. Essentially, we have won the lottery a million times over and it’s impossible to convey our gratitude.”

Lisa, an Advanced Emergency Medical Technician based at York Ambulance Station, had been deployed to stand by on Hull Road when she was called to a ‘patient not breathing’.

“We have a stand-by facility on Hull Road but instead of going into the building, I waited in my car for the next call so when I got the job, I was literally two minutes away from their home; some things are just meant to be,” said Lisa.

Poppy’s parents and grandmother, Patricia Smith, had initially carried out mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and when Lisa arrived she took over the life-saving efforts.  After six cycles of basic life support (rescue breaths and CPR), Poppy started to breathe again. An ambulance crewed by Matt Kennedy and Steve Harrison arrived to support Lisa and the trio transported Poppy to York Hospital.

She received her initial care and treatment at York Hospital before being transferred to Leeds General Infirmary the following day. It transpired that Poppy, a previously healthy toddler who was suffering with the tail-end of a cold, had contracted the parvo virus which had triggered myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle. She was put on a ventilator and an ECMO machine which took over the work of her heart. This provided time for her heart to rest and recover, while maintaining a good blood supply to the brain and other organs in the body.

Dad John, a landscape gardener, added: “We were at rock bottom so we decided to think the worst but hope for the best and with every single step, from being taken off the ECMO machine and then the ventilator, she got progressively better; we have been very lucky.

“There was a risk that she could have suffered severe brain damage so it was a worrying time when they took her off the sedation to see how she reacted. One of the best moments was when Elaine was holding her and Poppy opened her eyes; there was instant recognition when she saw her Mummy, we knew there was a spark and that her brain was working okay.

“There was paralysis on her left side but over a few days she got movement back. She instantly recognised her favourite television programme, the Teletubbies, and she said all the words she had said before – it has been a remarkable comeback. She is our little miracle.”

After three weeks in hospital (Elaine and John will be eternally grateful to the Sick Children’s Trust for giving them a room to stay at Eckersley House near to Leeds General Infirmary), Poppy was discharged and is on medication for arrhythmia. She is hoped to make a full recovery.

Poppy and her parents were reunited with Lisa, Steve and Matt at York Ambulance Station on 13 April 2017 when the clinicians were presented with YAS Divisional Commander’s Certificates of Commendation for their life-saving efforts.

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