Hamish thanks his life-saving 999 heroes

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By Cara Sulieman

A 12-YEAR-OLD lad who had a heart attack was today reunited with the quick-thinking ambulance worker who helped to save his life.

Hamish Mackinnon suffered a heart attack while on a school trip in April 2009 but survived after an emergency call handler diagnosed the problem and told adults how to treat him.

And after making a full recovery Hamish was delighted to finally meet Morag Bell, whose calm advice kept him alive until paramedics raced to his aid.

The pair were reunited as the Scottish Ambulance Service officially opened their new Emergency Medical Dispatch Centre in South Queensferry with health secretary Nicola Sturgeon.

Hamish was on a school trip from Stoniehill Primary in Musselburgh to see his new high school on April 2, last year when he collapsed.

Staff from the school quickly dialed 999 where Morag, 40, discovered that the youngster was having a heart attack.

“I had cardiac arrest”

She instructed parent helper Paul McLaren to carry out CPR on the young boy to keep him alive while ambulance crews rushed to the scene.

A year on the Musselburgh Grammar pupil is doing well, and was pleased to meet the woman who helped save his life.

Hamish said: “I was on a school trip from my primary school to see the high school.

“We were on the way back just about lunch time.

“I had a cardiac arrest and one of the parent helpers did CPR on me and my teacher called the ambulance.

“Then I woke up in hospital. I don’t remember anything else.”

Luckily for Hamish, one of the parents on the trip knew CPR and was able to keep him alive as they waited for the ambulance.

Hamish was rushed to the Sick Kids Hospital in Edinburgh where he came round five days later.

Morag said that she vividly remembered the call and that it had hit home.

She said: “I remember that the day had been bad from the start – we were getting really bad calls from the beginning of our shift.

“I thought it was just going to be a normal call, at first I thought he had fainted in the playground.

“The teacher said his breathing was unusual and then I thought maybe he was having a fit.

“But then when I check his breathing I realised it was more than that – we have a system that checks breathing over the phone and it tells you when it is unusual.

“Luckily the parent helper knew how to do CPR so I was reassuring the teacher on the phone that Paul was doing the right thing as the ambulance crew made their way there.

“The call lasted about 10 to 15 minutes and Paul was doing CPR for that amount of time.

“It did affect me because my son Alistair is the same age and the call itself was quite distressing.

“Some calls do affect you more than others and you check up on them afterwards.

“I was able to check up through the paramedic and was getting updates.

“It’s really nice to see him doing so well.”

“It was horrendous”

Hamish’s mum Tina, 48, was also there to meet Morag, and told of her shock when she got the call from the school.

She said:  “I was away down in England visiting my mum and I got a phone call from the school saying he had collapsed and had been taken off in an ambulance.

“At first I didn’t think anything of it, I thought he had fallen over or fainted or something so I called my husband and said he had better call the Sick Kids and find out what’s happening.

“But then my husband called back and said that they didn’t think Hamish was going to live and I had to get home as soon as I could.

“It was horrendous – I was six hours on the train to get there.”

It has been a long road to recovery for Hamish, who is now back at school.

Tina added: “Hamish was on life support for five days and then five weeks in intensive care and then seven weeks in the orthopaedic ward.

“It was about three months in hospital in total.

“The whole time he was ventilated they didn’t know how he would be when he came out.

“They told us to be prepared for brain damage and all sorts. It was a while before we could relax, perhaps a couple of weeks.

“We had some pretty dodgy moments.

“He has been fitted with a defibrillator and given beta blockers but they still don’t know what caused it – he was a perfectly normal and healthy boy.

“It was thanks to Morag listening to his breathing over the phone that they worked out what it was.”

Nicola Sturgeon said that Hamish and Morag were an example of the good work of the NHS.

She said: “Hamish’s story is on one level amazing and on another level it is an example of the miracles that happen in the NHS every day

“Morag was just doing her job, doing it extremely well, and saves a child’s life.

“Without the quick thinking of that call handler that wee boy might not be here today.

“He’s a remarkable young chap taking all this in his stride.”

The new call centre in South Queensferry sees the ambulance call handlers move in to the same building as NHS 24.

As well as saving money, it is hoped that it will allow more co-operation between the two services as they work side by side.

The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Nicola Sturgeon, said the move would “enhance the close partnership between the two organisations”.

She added:  “Moving the emergency dispatch centre to the same site as NHS 24 will help them continue to provide the efficient and effective service that patients and callers need.

“Sometimes people call the ambulance service when they really need some advice, and sometimes people call NHS 24 when they really need an ambulance.”

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