Schoolgirl cardiac arrest survivor reunited with ambulance crews

A SCHOOLGIRL who had a cardiac arrest has been reunited with the ambulance crews who helped to save her life.


When 16-year-old Kirsten Morrissey collapsed at home in Newtown, Powys, it was her quick-thinking father Jason who began to perform CPR while sister Niamh, 14, dialled 999.

Welsh Ambulance Service crews delivered eight shocks with a defibrillator before the teenager was flown to hospital for emergency surgery.


Kirsten’s mother Natalie said: “It just goes to show how important early CPR is.

“Had it not been a Bank Holiday, Jason wouldn’t have been there to start compressions, and for the confidence Niamh had to call 999 and talk to them was amazing.”

Kirsten had no apparent health issues before the incident in August 2021.


Natalie said: “She’d experienced a couple of palpitations in the past but nothing too serious as they didn’t last long, so we put it down to stress over her GCSEs.


“It was the Bank Holiday before school started and she rang me saying she was feeling ill and asked if I could come and see her.


“As soon as I arrived, Jason was already giving CPR and Niamh was on the phone to 999.”

Help arrived within five minutes in the form of a paramedic in a rapid response car, two emergency ambulances and the Wales Air Ambulance.


Kirsten received eight shocks from a defibrillator before being flown to University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, where she was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a rare heart condition that affects the electrical signals that control heartbeat.


Natalie said: “She’s undergone four heart procedures since the incident, with the fifth and hopefully last operation happening this year.


“Ideally it would have been a one-off surgery, but her case was particularly unusual.


“For her next and hopefully last operation, she will be having keyhole surgery.


“Otherwise, she is doing very well – she works Wednesdays and Sundays and goes to college, where she’s studying her A-levels in psychology, art and film studies.”

When someone has a cardiac arrest, they collapse and become unresponsive.

They either stop breathing entirely, or they may take gasping or infrequent breaths for a few minutes, which can be misinterpreted as snoring.

Kirsten has since been reunited with some of the Welsh Ambulance Service staff who helped to save her life.

Among them was paramedic Jacqueline McWatt, who said: “It was lovely to see Kirsten again along with her sister, mum and dad.


“To think that she is now at college and studying after all she went through on that day is a miracle.


“She is one incredibly brave lady.”

Kirsten’s family and friends at Newtown High School have since raised hundreds of pounds for the Wales Air Ambulance, British Heart Foundation, Great Ormond Street Hospital and Ronald McDonald House charities since her cardiac arrest, and have also supported the Welsh Ambulance Service’s Restart a Heart campaign.


Natalie said: “We’ve raised money for quite a few charities and collected bags full of toys, clothes, batteries and more for Ronald McDonald, who provided me with so much support while Kirsten was in hospital.


“They were just amazing.”


If you see someone having a cardiac arrest, phone 999 immediately and start CPR.

In addition, a defibrillator will deliver a controlled electric shock to try and get the heart beating normally again.

Ambulance call handlers will tell you where your nearest defibrillator is.

Watch this video from the Resuscitation Council UK about how to perform CPR.

It is important that new and existing defibrillators are registered on The Circuit in order that 999 call handlers can quickly and easily alert callers to their location if needed.


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