GoodSAM a lifesaver

Damian Fewster and his partner Donna Parsons meet with paramedics Emily Wilson, Alison Winnall and Jack Sullivan for the first time since the incident.

A Gisborne father and his family last week thanked the GoodSAM responder and paramedics who saved his life, when he suffered cardiac arrest earlier this year.

Damian Fewster, 45, asked one of his sons to call for help after returning home from the gym and developing severe chest pain about 9.45pm. Shortly after, he collapsed and went into cardiac arrest. 

Nearby GoodSAM responder and experienced ICU nurse, Helen Barker, immediately sprang to action when she received the alert. 

“I knew I had to go. I was still in my pyjamas, I grabbed my coat and grabbed my keys,” she said. 

“I work for a first aid company teaching basic life support. It’s all we teach – how important time is in survival.” 

GoodSAM is a smartphone app that connects people in cardiac arrest with members of the community who are willing to perform CPR in the critical minutes before paramedics arrive.

Damian Fewster with GoodSAM responder Helen Barker. 

CPR and defibrillation are essential in cardiac arrest as every minute that CPR is delayed, survival decreases by 10 per cent. 

When Ms Barker arrived at the scene, she found Mr Fewster alone with two of his children, 10-year-old Liam and seven-year-old Luke. 

His eldest son, Jack, and partner Donna were not home at the time. 

“His kids were really scared and I knew I needed to start CPR straight away,” she said. 

Ms Barker continued compressions for about four minutes until Ambulance Victoria paramedics arrived a short time later to take over. 

They applied a defibrillator and administered four shocks before achieving a return of spontaneous circulation (pulse). 

Ms Barker stayed with the boys when paramedics arrived and talked them through what was happening. 

Mr Fewster has now made a full recovery, returning to work last month after just seven weeks off. 

He was reunited with Ms Barker and the paramedics as part of Shocktober – an annual campaign aimed at improving cardiac arrest survival rates. 

“I’m thankful for everything they did. I wouldn’t be here without them,” he said. 

Paramedics Jack Sullivan and Emily Wilson were two of the paramedics that assisted Mr Fewster that evening. They said the GoodSAM response was important in improving cardiac survival rates. 

“I think it probably saved his life,” Ms Wilson said. 

“Having someone there doing good CPR for five or seven minutes before we got there and that he had circulation happening in his body and he had oxygen going to his brain, that’s really important.” 

Ms Barker downloaded the app about eight years ago and this was the first time she been alerted to an incident in her area. 

She had updated the app just weeks before Mr Fewster’s medical emergency. 

Anyone willing and able to perform CPR can save lives by signing up to the app. Alerts are administered to the closet responder. 

More than 55 lives have been saved thanks to GoodSAM responders. There are currently more than 12,000 GoodSAM responders across the state. For more information, visit: