When Rochelle Chapman did a first aid course as a teenager and was taught how to perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), she never imagined the skills she learned would help save the life of one of the most important people in her life.
The ordeal occurred 21 years ago when Rochelle’s father, David Pinkerton (now 69), suffered a cardiac arrest in the middle of the night at their Auckland home. He stopped breathing for 15 minutes, forcing Rochelle to think on her feet and remember the CPR techniques she’d learned. The drama played out in front of her whole family – mother Sandra, sister Vanessa, and brothers Jon and Grant.
“Our entire family was asleep. My mum woke me up in a panic, telling me something was wrong with Dad. He was having a heart attack in his bed and fell on top of our mum,” Rochelle explains. “They dragged him into the lounge and called for help. I was the only person in the house who knew CPR, so I was the only one who could save his life.”
As they anxiously waited for the ambulance, Rochelle (41), who was 19 at the time, continued to perform CPR – a technique that pumps oxygen-rich blood from the lungs to the brain and the rest of the body.
“I remember thinking my dad was a lot heavier than the dummy we used during our training,” says Rochelle. “I knew I had to stay calm, despite the situation being very stressful. I needed to save my father’s life.”
When the ambulance finally arrived, a defibrillator was used to shock David’s heart back into action and he was eventually stabilised. Without Rochelle’s quick thinking and first aid training, her father would have certainly died.
“I only took the first aid course at high school for an extra credit. In hindsight, I never imagined how important it was going to be. The event was so dramatic, it’s etched in my mind forever.
I can replay every moment of it, and I would hate for anyone else to go through it.”
The cardiac arrest was so serious and his heart so badly damaged, David was only given one to three years to live. But 22 years later, he is as fit as a fiddle. “That’s because he’s a stubborn bugger,” Rochelle jokes.
David will be forever grateful for his daughter’s actions and is especially happy that she took the first aid course as a teenager.
“Since the incident, I’ve had many surgeries and take a cocktail of medication. But that hasn’t stopped me from going on two world trips and getting to know my grandchildren,” David says.
“It goes to prove that having a serious heart attack shouldn’t stop you from living your life.”
Knowing the importance of CPR, Rochelle, who is an apps manager at a firm that designs mobile applications and games, has now helped design an important resource. It’s a CPR application that can be downloaded on iPads and mobile phones – giving anyone the knowledge of CPR.
Rochelle is working with St John to promote the free app. She knows it will help save the lives of some of the nine New Zealanders who suffer from cardiac arrests each day and who have a 10% survival rate.
“I’m trying to get CPR into as many hands as possible. In this day and age, all it takes is having a phone, which most do have, and giving people access to all the information.”
The app talks, beeps in time to compressions and prompts the user through CPR. “I know from experience that if you have to use CPR, it can be a very stressful situation and it’s easy for the mind to go blank. This application helps you through the process.”
Rochelle often thinks about that night and knows how lucky she is to still have her father in her life. She smiles thinking of the joy and love he has given to her and her children, Sam (4) and Emma (22 months), who are extremely close to their “Poppa”.
“He got to walk me down the aisle when I married 10 years ago. My children get to love and adore him and won’t miss out on having a grandfather. All of our lives have been enriched having Dad around.”