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Portland wife gives husband life-saving gift

February 15, 2024 | in News

Portland grandmother Tuula Pratt never imagined she’d be the one to save her soulmate’s life.

Her husband of 36 years, Graham, had just woken up and was lying in bed reading when his heart suddenly stopped.

“Graham was making funny noises, and when I asked him if he was alright, he didn’t answer,” Tuula said.

“When I looked into his eyes there was nothing, not even a flicker.”

(L-R): Paramedics Brittany Stafford and Jess Schmetzer with Tuula and Graham Pratt.

Tuula called Triple Zero (000) and during the call Graham stopped breathing.

“They told me an ambulance was on the way and to start CPR,” Tuula said.

Tuula started chest compressions on Graham, made even harder by the fact he was lying on the couple’s waterbed.

“It wasn’t easy, but there was no way I could get him off of the bed,” she said.

“It was exhausting but I just kept going, hoping they would get here in time.”

Paramedics, firefighters and a GoodSAM Responder arrived minutes later and took over Graham’s care.

Graham has lived with cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle, for many years, but there were no warning signs leading up to his cardiac arrest.

Portland paramedic Brittany Stafford said she didn’t expect Graham to survive.

“It was a very complex case and he died at least three times while we were there,” she said.

“After an hour working on him at home, we were finally about to transfer him to our helicopter, but he died again. It’s the only time I’ve had to do CPR in a moving ambulance in my career.”

Graham was finally stable enough to be flown to University Hospital Geelong, where he spent nine days in intensive care, and another two weeks in the cardiac ward.

He was fitted with an implantable defibrillator and was able to return home in January.

Brittany said Tuula’s actions had made all the difference for Graham.

“So often these cases don’t have a good outcome,” she said.

“It just shows what a difference you can make in someone’s survival, just by knowing CPR.”

Every day in Victoria, 20 people suffer a cardiac arrest and only 1 in 10 will survive.

If a person receives bystander CPR and defibrillation (a shock from an AED), their chance of survival increases by more than 70 per cent.

For Tuula, having her husband survive, and “survive well” has been an incredible relief.

“I’m just so thankful his brain is still working,” she said.

“He can still do everything he wants to do.”

Graham and Tuula will celebrate their 37th wedding anniversary on Saturday, 17 February.

“We don’t usually do much, but I suppose we should this year- maybe we’ll have fish and chips by the water,” Tuula said.

“It shouldn’t take a particular day to show someone you love them – you should do it every day.”