Ambulance staff reunite with fire service colleague for first time since saving his life

Date: 12 February 2018

Ambulance service staff have been reunited with the firefighter whose life they saved at an incident last month (January).

Just after 7.30am on New Year’s Day, Fire Officer Dean Wright left his wife and five sons asleep to head to Hawkwell Fire Station after being called out to a fire in Lower Road, Hockley.

Dean took on the responsibilities of laying out hose – a physically challenging job in the cold winter temperatures – which required him to tackle his way through undergrowth to use a neighbouring pond for water supply. “I remember getting the hoses set up and heading back to the fire engine,” Dean said. “I needed a bit of a breather. There were a couple of moments where I felt my chest hurt a little bit and I had shortness of breath, but I thought it was related to a chest infection I’d had a few weeks before.

 “I carried on as normal and was setting up some monitors (used to direct the flow of water onto the fire) when I felt my eyes going in and out of focus. It was a surreal feeling, but the first thing I thought was: ‘don’t faint in front of the guys!’”

What happened in the next four minutes, during which Dean’s heart stopped beating after he went into cardiac arrest, would go on to be described as a ‘miracle’ by those involved.

Owing to the nature of the incident, East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust’s Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) had also been dispatched to the scene and were there when Dean collapsed.

Chris Wilkinson, HART team supervisor, said: “We had been called as initially it was believed that there were people within the building that was on fire. It quickly became apparent that there weren’t, but we attended as a precaution. Seconds after I’d been speaking to one of the firefighters leading the incident, I heard someone shouting that a firefighter was down.

“I immediately saw Dean collapsed on his side, with several of his colleagues trying to help him. I’ve been in the ambulance service for nearly 15 years and I’ve never been involved in anything like that. It was completely silent; everyone realised the severity of it.”

Dean had been moved by the HART team abound 30 metres away from where he had collapsed, to allow the paramedics to restart his breathing away from the smoke and hazards posed by the blaze. “Our team had given him every chance and worked really well. It was fortunate in terms of where Dean was found, but from that point it really couldn’t have been executed any better,” Chris added.

Following use of a defibrillator and CPR, Dean began breathing again and was accompanied by road to Basildon Hospital by the HART team and Essex and Herts Air Ambulance staff, who had also arrived within minutes.

Dean was left counting his blessings after being released from hospital last month and has now begun his recovery. Doctors and cardiologists at Basildon Hospital have given positive feedback as he aims to resume duties at Hawkwell, as well as his wholetime responsibilities on White Watch at Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service’s Borehamwood Fire Station.

Dean added: “I was incredibly lucky to have so many people in the right place at the right time, able to help me.

 “I want to say a big thank you to the HART team. I’ll never, ever take them for granted at incidents we go to with them. It’s very difficult to quantify or put into words what they did: but they were there at the right time and did everything to bring me back.”

Dean got his chance to meet and greet the HART team, as well as the air ambulance crew who accompanied him, at an emotional event at Hawkwell Fire Station on Tuesday (February 6th).

HART Operations Manager Wesley Routledge, who attended the reunion, said: “I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Essex Fire and Rescue Service for their hospitality last night and also to say thank you to all those involved (A&E Operations, HEMS and HART) for working together to achieve such an amazing outcome. From cardiac arrest to walking out of hospital in five days is an amazing success story.  Everyone involved should be extremely proud that they have made such a difference to Dean and his family – thank you.”

  • Summary:

    Ambulance service staff have been reunited with the firefighter whose life they saved at an incident last month (January).