A father who suffered two heart attacks and had to be brought back to life three times in one night survived thanks to his wife’s love of real-life medical dramas.
Michelle Birnie-Mackintosh instantly recognized husband Greg’s symptoms from her favorite 999 shows when he started vomiting and complaining of chest pains and tingling in his hands.
Until that moment the 50-year-old, from Aberdeenshire, had seemed in perfect health, reports the Daily Record.
But Mrs Birnie-Mackintosh knew the father-of-four was having a heart attack after remembering what she had seen on TV and called for an ambulance – but was distracted to be told there were none available.
Half-an-hour later he suffered a second attack and, two hours later, he had to be shocked back to life with a defibrillator when he suffered three cardiac arrests enroute to hospital.
Mrs Birnie-Mackintosh, 36, is now raising money to buy similar life-saving machines for the rural area to ensure anyone who has a cardiac arrest at home has a chance of survival.
She said: “A defibrillator [in the ambulance] saved my husband’s life. Without it, I would be planning his funeral for him.
“When I phoned for an ambulance they said there weren’t any available and they would be with me as soon as they could.
“There is a defibrillator at the pub but if he had the cardiac arrest at home I wouldn’t have had time to go and get it and come back. It would have been too late.
“By having two more in the village it will hopefully mean everyone will be able to get to one in time.”
Mr Mackintosh, who needed a balloon pump inserted in his heart to improve blood flow, was so sick he spent the next fortnight in a coma on full-life support in intensive care nearly 200 miles from home.
He also suffered a battle with delirium, during which he was convinced he had to learn lines for his role as an extra in Harry Potter, and sepsis.
But he has stunned medics to survive against two per cent odds, and is now recovering at home with his wife and young children Rhian, 13, Rudi, six, Teddy, five, and Ennis, four.
Mrs Birnie-Mackintosh said: “He really is an absolute miracle with all the odds stacked against him.
“I am a big believer in fate and that when your time is up, it’s up, and it just wasn’t his time. Someone was definitely looking over him.”
It was Mrs Birnie-Mackintosh’s quick response that ensured he was in the ambulance when he suffered his first cardiac arrest.
She said: “I came down stairs and he was just sitting there. He said he did not feel well, and his skin was almost silver and translucent, and he was cold and clammy.
“I asked him how his hands felt and he said they felt tingly and his chest was tight between his shoulders, and then he was sick.
“We watch a lot of 999 programs like What’s Your Emergency and 24 Hours in A&E and all of them definitely paid off because I knew he was having a heart attack and called 999.”
With no ambulances available at the time, a first responder was first on the scene. It was only by chance an ambulance from another call was passing nearby and turned down their road to help soon after.
As it had no trolley onboard to transport the patient, however, they had to wait for another to turn up – and two hours later on the way to hospital his heart stopped three times, with paramedics having to bring him back to life each time
In a bittersweet twist, a week later, as her husband clung to life in Glasgow, Mrs Birnie-Mackintosh received a life-changing call telling her she had won £10,000 cash and a £335,000 house in a competition.
Mrs Birnie-Mackintosh has now used some of those winnings to fund a £3,000 defibrillator, similar to what was onboard the ambulance, and is fundraising for another two.
She said: “They really do save lives. I don’t think enough people understand that. If you have a cardiac arrest your heart has literally stopped and that’s when you need to use it.”
She hopes a third defibrillator can be located in the nearby village of Insch.
The family’s ordeal began just hours after the account manager had finished work and was relaxing at home on March 1.
Paramedics initially thought surgeons would insert a stent to improve blood flow from his heart when they reached Aberdeen, as his heart attack had been caught early.
But after multiple brushes with death on the way there he had to be placed in an induced coma and he was transferred to the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Glasgow a day later for specialist care and medics did not know if he would survive the night.
And Mrs Birnie-Mackintosh, who had to stay behind to look after their four children, was warned that the longer he remained in a coma the more likely he was to come out in a “vegetative state”.
But after five weeks battling for life in the two hospitals, he got home last week to begin his long recovery.
Mrs Birnie-Mackintosh said: “He still gets tired and his short term memory comes and goes.
“It’s little things, like not knowing how to search on a mobile phone or how to work the remote control; they’re all learned behaviours. But once you give him a trigger he remembers.
“His brain and body have been through a lot. It will just take time.”
He is unable to remember events in the week prior to his heart attack, or anything of his time in hospital.
But Mrs Birnie-Mackintosh said: “I’m just glad he’s home as himself and not just a fraction of who he was. I don’t know how I would have coped with that.
“He didn’t know who I was when they took him out of the coma. But he does now and that’s the main thing.
“The odds of him coming out of three cardiac arrests was only two per cent and, if you’re in a coma for two or more weeks, the chances are you come out in a vegetative state. So to come out of all that almost unscathed is unbelievable.”
The couple’s son Rudi has already got his birthday wish – his father home in time to help him celebrate later this month.
Mrs Birnie-Mackintosh said: “He was asked what he wanted and all he said was his dad to be home.”
To support her fundraising, visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/michelle-birnie-mackintosh?