On December 14, just weeks before Christmas, Felicity Blanch was at home alone with her three children on the family’s cattle farm in Proston, 40 minutes north-west of Kingaroy.
She was chatting to a girlfriend on the phone when she suddenly collapsed suffering a sudden cardiac arrest – her heart had stopped beating and Felicity fell backwards hitting her head on the floor.
“My friend who I was on the phone to, said she could hear the kids screaming and fighting over who was going to call triple zero. She hung up and immediately rang my mother-in-law’s house and my two sisters-in-law’s rushed over. My youngest, Kelly who is 10, rushed to get the neighbour,” Felicity said.
With Proston’s only paramedic on fatigue leave at the time, the emergency call was transferred to the Murgon ambulance station. As luck would have it, their ambulance was just around the corner.
Felicity’s mother Anne explains: “The ambulance was literally a few hundred metres away from the house, so they did a u-turn and were there in minutes. We were so lucky, otherwise it would have been a 40 minute wait and probably ‘goodnight nurse’ for poor Felicity”.
Felicity, 42, has a heart condition called QT Syndrome, which she describes “can be set off at any time by emotions or loud noises, things that give me a fright. Then my heart gets out of rhythm and beats faster and faster and it just can’t beat back into rhythm – which causes the cardiac arrest.”
Felicity was given CPR by the paramedics, assisted by her two sister-in-law’s. It took ambulance officers four attempts with the defibrillator to bring her back before she was taken to Murgon Hospital then airlifted to the Sunshine Coast University Hospital for emergency treatment.
Felicity’s parents – Anne and Phil – flew down to the Sunshine Coast and checked in at a local hotel. A few days later Felicity’s husband Leon and three children joined them.
“We couldn’t stay at Wishlist House at the time – it was full – so the lady at Wishlist offered for us to stay at Reed House – but we felt with the condition Felicity was in, we didn’t want to be half an hour away,” Anne said.
Felicity was on life support in the Intensive Care Unit at SCUH for two days before she was stable enough to be transferred to the cardiac ward. A week after her cardiac arrest Felicity had a defibrillator fitted and a day later, was taken to rehab.
“We had all been up to see Felicity on Christmas Eve and despite all that she’d been through she looked pretty good. The kids were pleased to see her and took the chance to talk through what had happened. Then I took the kids back to the Mercure Hotel so she and Leon could have some time to talk, about an hour later he called me… she had suffered a stroke and was being taken by helicopter to the Royal Brisbane Hospital,” Anne said.
Felicity had suffered a stroke and had a 3cm clot on the right side of her brain, which needed emergency retrieval.
While Felicity was undergoing life-saving treatment, two rooms had opened up at Wishlist House on Christmas Day to allow the family to stay together during the medical crisis.
Days after her clot retrieval, now with a defibrillator, recovering from a stroke and QT Syndrome, Felicity was returned to SCUH for rehabilitation. In early January, she was finally well enough to be considered to return home.
Before she was given the ‘all clear’, medical staff wanted to be assured Felicity could handle everyday family life in her condition, so Felicity and her family stayed at Wishlist House for an extra day.
“If we had lived closer, they would have let me go ‘home home’, but it just wasn’t possible with three hours there and three hours back, so we are so grateful that we have been able to stay at Wishlist House. I was really relieved that I could stay here,” Felicity said.
Felicity is now back on the cattle farm in Proston and in good spirits.
“I’m feeling pretty good now, sometimes I feel like I have weakness in the left side of my body and I’m tired all the time, but given what I have gone through I feel OK,” she said.
“I remember one of the paramedics when I was in the ambulance on my way back from the RBH wiggling my big toes saying ‘I’m not going to call you Felicity anymore, I’m going to call you Lucky’. If I hadn’t have got all the medical treatment so quickly it could have been much much worse for me, so I do feel pretty lucky.
“For anyone who lives so far away like we do, Wishlist House is a godsend. I’m so grateful that I was able to have my family so close. It has been a really rough few months for us all.”
For more information about Wishlist accommodation, phone 5441 1049.