Eight doctors on call for our near-death experience

01 September 2003 by
Eight doctors on call for our near-death experience

It finally happened. I had one die on me - well nearly. It was a very busy evening, every table was full and everyone was enjoying the food and ambiance when Tom, my assistant, came over to me to say, "Mr W isn't well."

I immediately went to offer help. Mr W was slumped in his chair with just the wall to hold him up. "Mr W, shall we go to the lounge for some air?" I suggested. It was then that I noticed the funny shade of grey on his face: he had stopped breathing.

By an amazing stroke of luck we had a party of eight GPs on a retirement dinner. I flew over to the their table and asked for assistance. Imagine eight Supermen swirling from their tables and leaping to Mr W's assistance. They threw him to the floor, ripped open his shirt - buttons festooned across the dining room - one began to push down, another took charge of the mouth, and another yelled, "Call an ambulance, he's not with us."

I gave instructions: "Tom, you look after the other guests. I'll do 999 and look after Mrs W and the doctors." So we continued. A large arrangement of flowers was put in front of Mr W on the floor. We offered the two nearest tables to him an alternative room to sit in - funnily enough, they declined. Was it that they had prime positions, or was it that they would have had to have stepped over him to get out?

I was then called into the kitchen. "What's happening with these starters? Get them out," they screamed. "Well, we would," I replied, "but he's dead, and I don't think he will be requiring his." Another voice came from the back of the kitchen: "He could have waited till he was on pudding."

For 20 minutes the GPs pressed, pushed and breathed for him, taking it in turns to come up for air and a swig of wine. Little did I know that when the ambulance arrived the life-saving operation would continue in the dining room. The zappers came out - "Stand back!" The whole restaurant leant to one side. "Yes, he's back with us! Come on, Denis, stay with us. Stay with us, Denis!" they yelled. Once again the restaurant responded to their cries, and great smiles of joy were seen by Mr W's fellow diners, who by now were well into their main courses.

Needles then flew around the dining room as insulin was pumped in. Mr W was still extremely poorly but one hour later was able to be put on a stretcher, removed from the dining room and taken off to hospital. He suffered another heart attack on the way there but, the last I heard, he was sitting up in bed and doing well.

Dear dairy, remind me to refresh my first aid skills. And please, no more evenings like this one for the rest of my catering career.

Tracy Blackiston is managing director of Morston Hall hotel, Norfolk

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