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A Journey of Resilience: How a Defibrillator Saved a Young Life

Published on 21st August 2023

In August 2013, Tracy’s life took an unexpected turn when her six-year-old son – Jack-Charlie Tyson,  experienced a sudden cardiac arrest. Little did she know that this day would test her strength, resilience, and love for her son in ways she could never have imagined.

Tracy was at home with her son, enjoying their breakfast together. It seemed like a regular day, with Jack-Charlie eagerly anticipating his upcoming holiday with his father. But in the blink of an eye, their peaceful morning took a terrifying turn.

As Tracy prepared the toast in the kitchen, Jack-Charlie helped himself to a snack—a handful of yoghurt-flavoured raisins. But as he sat down on the sofa, something inexplicable happened. His body suddenly became rigid, his eyes wide open, hands clawed, and mouth locked in a haunting expression. Tracy’s heart raced as panic set in. She rushed to him, cradling him in her arms, desperately trying to understand what was happening.

In her distress, Tracy initially believed he was choking on the snacks. Frantically, she attempted to dislodge whatever was blocking his airway. She pounded on his back and turned him over, but to her dismay, his condition remained unchanged. His hands were still clawed, and his mouth refused to open. Time seemed to stand still as Tracy realised her son wasn’t breathing.

With every ounce of strength and determination, Tracy ran outside, desperately calling for help. A concerned neighbour came to her aid and advised her to dial emergency services. The operator guided Tracy through the steps, urging her to check Jack-Charlie’s pulse. There was none. Tracy’s world came crashing down, but she knew she had to act swiftly.

Thankfully, Tracy had learned CPR in a previous job, and with her knowledge and courage, she initiated chest compressions, tirelessly performing CPR for what felt like an eternity. Nine agonising minutes later, the first responders arrived—a team of dedicated professionals equipped with a defibrillator, a device Tracy was unfamiliar with at the time.

With a sense of urgency, the responders worked in unison, setting up the defibrillator and delivering shocks to Jack-Charlie’s lifeless body. A flicker of hope emerged as they detected a faint pulse. Another team arrived, and he was swiftly placed in an induced coma. The critical care continued as he was airlifted to Addenbrookes Hospital, with Tracy anxiously following in a police car.

For four suspenseful days, Jack-Charlie remained on life support, his brain carefully monitored to reduce swelling. It was during this time that Tracy learned the devastating truth—her son had suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. The cardiologist reassured her that there was nothing she could have done to prevent it. But Tracy knew that CPR and the quick response of the medical team, armed with the defibrillator, had saved her son’s life.

The days that followed were filled with a mix of trepidation and hope. The consultant shared positive news—her son showed signs of improvement. A brain scan revealed that his cognitive function was intact, but the true extent of his recovery remained uncertain until he emerged from the coma.

As they gradually weaned him off the ventilator, Tracy experienced a moment of pure joy and relief. Jack-Charlie sat up, his voice filled with innocence and wonder. He uttered the words, “Mummy green eyes, daddy brown eyes,” reaffirming that he was still present, still fighting. Tracy drew strength from this beautiful moment, knowing that they would face whatever challenges lay ahead, together.

Following his transfer to Great Ormond Street Hospital, Jack-Charlie received ongoing care from the dedicated cardiology team. An Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) was recommended to ensure his safety in the future. Though he would need periodic replacements, it was a small price to pay for the gift of life.

Against all odds, Tracy’s son defied expectations. He resumed his passions and pursuits with an unyielding spirit. From being told he would never play football again, he not only returned to the field but triumphed in the cup final for his team. He embraced his studies, formed meaningful relationships, and embraced life with a newfound appreciation.

Yet, amid the joy and gratitude, Tracy says she is acutely aware of the statistics surrounding sudden cardiac arrests. For every story of survival, countless others are not as fortunate. It is a stark reminder of the importance of spreading awareness about the life-saving capabilities of defibrillators.

Tracy’s son, Jack-Charlie is a living testament to the power of CPR and defibrillators, and proudly shares his story. He understands the value of raising awareness, ensuring that others have access to these vital resources. Tracy has made it her mission to educate others, reminding them that defibrillators save lives and that being equipped with the knowledge of CPR can make a world of difference in an emergency.

Their journey has not been without its challenges. Medications, regular monitoring, and the impending replacement of the ICD are constant reminders of the fragility of life. However, they face each hurdle with unwavering determination and gratitude for the second chance they’ve been given.

Tracy often reflects on that fateful day, the moment her son’s life hung in the balance. It was a day that tested her strength as a mother and a human being. And while the experience was undeniably traumatic, it forged an unbreakable bond between Tracy and her son. Together, they embrace life’s uncertainties, cherishing each precious moment and inspiring others to do the same.

It is 10 years since Tracy and Jack-Charlie went through this terrible ordeal, but through her advocacy – Tracy strives to ensure that more people learn about the importance of defibrillators and more families are spared the anguish she experienced that fateful day.

Tracy’s journey is a testament to the remarkable resilience of the human spirit. It’s a story of hope, courage, and the incredible impact of timely intervention. Huge thanks to Tracy for sharing her story with us.

As part of our #DefibsSaveLives campaign, we want to tell real-life stories from real people whose lives were inexorably changed by a defibrillator.  Tracy’s story is one that resonates with all of us, reminding us of the fragility and preciousness of life. It prompts us to value each moment, champion the importance of preparedness, and embrace the extraordinary power of the human spirit. Every day, Defibrillators are used in our communities to help save lives, and Tracy’s story, although remarkable, could happen to anyone.

Wherever you are reading this, the office, your home, the gym, look around your surroundings. Do you know where your nearest defibrillator is?

If you have been saved by a defibrillator or know someone who has, we want to hear your story!

Share your experience by filling out this questionnaire and help spread the word about the life-saving power of defibrillators.