Health crisis has heart-warming ending

Published 4:32pm 24 January 2024

Health crisis has heart-warming ending
Words by Jodie Powell

The Samford Area Men’s Shed is about far more than camaraderie – the support it provides is literally live-saving.

Peter Schinkel would have died in December if it was not for the help of quick-thinking fellow “shedders”.

Instead, he was today reunited with the Queensland Ambulance Service members at the Mitchelton Ambulance Station – including paramedic in training Casey Darling – who saved the 79-year-old’s life.

It was also an opportunity for Peter to officially present the Samford Area Men’s Shed with a portable Automated External Defibrillator (AED) to add to the existing device installed at the shed as a mark of his gratitude.

Help at hand

Health crisis has heart-warming ending
Sharon and Peter Shinkel

He was helping fellow members clean up the day after the Shed’s Christmas party at the Samford Showgrounds when he took several steps backward and made a grunting sound.

Luckily for him, retired paramedic Allen Marr and former fire and emergency services member Greg Prior were by his side to catch him as he fell.

Allen and Greg say that had there not been an AED at the showgrounds, the outcome for Peter, who suffered from atrial fibrillation - which causes the heart to beat fast an irregularly - would have been grim.

“It happened very quickly and very silently,” Allen, who was with the Queensland Ambulance Service for 43 years, says.

Allen credits regular AED refresher sessions – held every three or four months – with giving them added confidence they were doing everything they could to help their friend.

Greg says while he and Allen were experienced at performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation, having the AED on hand improved Peter’s chances of recovery vastly.

Automated External Defibrillator crucial

Health crisis has heart-warming ending

“The beauty of the module was that it was giving us the rhythm of compressions and letting us know whether to press harder and it let us know when it was going to shock,” he explains.

“Having been with Fire and Emergency Services it was pretty routine in many respects, but obviously with a friend going down it’s very different.
“It happened so quickly and quietly and we realised he was going into full arrest.”

The men used the AED to shock Peter three times, and when paramedics arrived they shocked him a fourth.

With Allen and Greg and a visiting shed member working to keep Peter alive, Samford Area Men’s Shed chairman Phil Walters was on the phone speaking with Triple-0 Emergency Medical Dispatcher Vanessa Saville, who guided him through the correct steps to take.

“Peter definitely had the best chance of survival – it was a great call with a great outcome,” Vanessa says.

Special reunion

Health crisis has heart-warming ending

Queensland Ambulance Service paramedic Mick McAuliffe, who attended the scene, praised the poise of the shed members in the face of an emergency.

“It really highlights how important that chain of survival is,” Mick says.

“Having the courage to use this machine was great – they’re very simple to use.

“Even if you don’t have an AED, our call-takers can give instructions over the phone.

“The statistics tell us that the likelihood of surviving an out of hospital attack as you get older is minimal.”

Fellow paramedic Josh Kent says it was very special to see Peter again.

“In this case we had an ex-ambo on the scene, so CPR was excellent and his heart started beating after the shock we have him.”

Grateful family

Health crisis has heart-warming ending

A 10-year member of the Samford Area Men’s Shed, Peter says he, his wife Sharon and their family are very grateful for their friends’ intervention.

“My heart went into fibrillation and the only cure for that is defibrillation,” he says.

“I was in the best hands – they’re very competent and capable and they saved my life.”

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