Lucky Victor survives massive anaphylactic reaction to rat bite in Bracknell.
On 20 July 2012 retired police officer Victor Smallwood was at home on the third floor of his house in Bracknell when he was bitten on the hand by the family's pet rat. The family had been keeping rats as pets for 16 years and Victor had been nipped by one a few years before with no ill effect.
This time the family's one year old pet rat, named Cow Rat on account of its cow-like markings, had taken quite a chunk out of Victor's hand. Victor ran his hand under the cold tap and wrapped his hand in a towel. Almost immediately the bite became catastrophically painful and within 30 - 40 seconds Victor had sunk to his knees gasping for breath, his face swollen and blue.
At 18.07 hours Victor's wife Julie called 999 and informed South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust's (SCAS) emergency call taker Lucinda Mace that Victor had been bitten by the family's rat and had suffered an allergic reaction. Lucinda immediately despatched an emergency ambulance to the scene and gave Victor's wife instructions over the telephone on giving resuscitation which Julie relayed to her daughter Lauren who continued giving her father resuscitation until the ambulance crew arrived.
First on scene were Ambulance Technician Kathryn Cox and Paramedic Rebecca Sloane from SCAS' Bracknell Ambulance Station. They were due to finish their shift at 18.30 but arrived on scene to find Victor in respiratory arrest, purple with his eyes and head swollen, they immediately realised that Victor had had a massive anaphylaxis attack and that this could lead to cardiac arrest. Victor was given Adrenaline as well as Chlorphenamine to combat the allergic reaction. Kathryn continued to assist Victor with his breathing using a bag, valve and mask while Rebecca called for a back up crew as Victor was a big guy weighing some 210lbs and was on the third floor of the property.
Shortly afterwards another ambulance crew comprising Paramedic Georgina Wilford, and Emergency Care Assistants (ECA) Chris Black and Justyna Kacka from SCAS' Wexham Ambulance Station arrived on scene. It was a case of in at the deep end for Justyna who had recently completed the Emergency Care Assistant's training course and was observing and assisting the crew on only her second day on the road!
The two ambulance crews put Victor in a collar to keep his airway open and with the use of a Southampton Sling were able to stand him up and manoeuvre him down the narrow staircase and into one of the ambulances outside where Rebecca pre-alerted the Emergency Department (A&E) at Royal Berkshire Hospital that Victor was on his way and asked for a Resus team to greet him on arrival.
In spite of negotiating a road traffic accident en route to the hospital, ECA Chris managed to get there in around 9 minutes under emergency driving conditions with Georgina managing Victor's airway and giving Victor drug therapy and also fluids to treat his low blood pressure en route to hospital as Justyna concentrated on suctioning to ensure Victor did not choke on his vomit.
Victor was handed over to the Resus team at the hospital who quickly administered further drug therapy and fluids to him. Georgina went to the Relatives Room and offered support to Victor's wife Julie.
Victor remained in Intensive Care for 4 days and spent a further 4 days on a ward before being discharged. A week later he was readmitted with a severe headache and loss of vision that the specialists attributed to his brain being starved of oxygen during the anaphylaxis attack. 6 weeks later Victor, who has made an excellent recovery and his wife Julie were reunited at SCAS' Wexham Ambulance Station with the two ambulance crews who saved his life.
Victor Smallwood said:
'Although people will say that they were only doing their job they did it with flair, care and compassion. I could say so much about them, but at the end of the day it comes down to thank you all for saving my life. I hope they will keep in contact as they will always be part of our family.'
SCAS Paramedic Rebecca Sloane commented:
'It's lovely to meet up with Victor and Julie as we rarely get to see what happens to the patients we treat and we're all delighted with the outcome for Victor and his family.
'I should like to express my thanks to Victor's 22 year old daughter Lauren. She was so calm and so helpful in doing anything we asked of her. Having an extra pair of hands to help us was brilliant.'
SCAS Paramedic Georgina Wilford continued:
'It is amazing to see Victor looking so well and I'm delighted that he and his family are making an excellent recovery. It's a pleasure to see such a positive outcome for what could have been a very different situation.'
Last word goes to Victor's wife Julie who said of the crews who attended Victor:
'You're all angels.'
Published 13 September 2012