Grandad who suffered heart attack at Great North Run meets North East paramedic team who helped to save his life

A grandad who took part in the Great North Run has thanked emergency service workers for helping to save his life after he suffered a heart attack.

Paul Durham, 68, from Grantham, in Lincolnshire, met paramedic Rachael Hewitt and clinical care assistant Emma Newton just four weeks after they treated him for a heart attack following the end of the Great North Run in South Shields.

Rachael and Emma, who both work for the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS), were called during their 12-hour shift to reports of a man with chest pains after taking part in the half marathon.

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In the lead-up to Paul’s 11th Great North Run, he had tasked himself with running 10 km every day for 70 days, culminating in the half marathon to raise money for Diabetes UK.

NEAS paramedic Rachael Hewitt and clinical care assistant Emma Newton with Paul and Alyson Durham.

After finishing the race in less than two hours, Paul met his daughter, Holly Durham at the New Crown Hotel in South Shields where he began to feel unwell.

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The pair assumed it was exertion from running and decided to head back to where they were staying, in a hired motor home at Westoe Rugby Club, in Dean Road.

An ambulance was then called an hour later when Paul began to get chest pains.

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Paul Durham.

He said: “The pain was like someone pressing on my chest.

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"I knew something wasn’t right. In the back of my mind, I thought I could be having a heart attack.”

Rachael and Emma were in the middle of a hectic shift when they were sent to the sports ground and road diversions and heavy rain made it difficult to navigate the ambulance to Paul.

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Rachael, who is based at Monkton Ambulance Station, said: “I said to Paul, I’m going to be fully open and honest with you, you’re currently having a heart attack.”

Paul Durham with NEAS clinical care assistant Emma Newton (left) and paramedic Rachael Hewitt (right).
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Paul was then taken to the Freeman Hospital, in Newcastle, for further treatment but while travelling in the ambulance, Paul’s blood pressure began to drop.

Emma said: “We were concerned he might go into cardiac arrest. I remember driving really fast along the Coast Road thinking I just wanted to get him there as quickly as I could because he was deteriorating.”

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Paul was taken straight to theatre, where he was fitted with two stents, before he was discharged a day later.

He has been recovering well and the incident hasn’t deterred his passion for running.

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He said: “I hope to be running again soon. I’m signed up for next year’s Great North Run but I don’t think I’ll be doing 70 10Ks before again.

“I just want to say thank you. I owe the ambulance staff and everyone who helped so much.”

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After being reunited with Paul, Rachael said: “We rarely find out the outcomes for patients after getting them to hospital so it was great to hear Paul had been discharged and doing well.

“His fitness was a credit to him and enabled him to tolerate what was happening. I was acutely aware of just how time critical the situation was for him. I’m proud to have played a part in Paul’s treatment and wish him all the best for his continuing recovery.”

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Emma added: “This is a job that will stay in my mind for a long time. I’m pleased we got Paul to a place of definitive care as quickly as we did. I’m beyond pleased he’s back home and hope he’s able to get back running as soon as he can.”