The parents of an Uckfield student who collapsed moments after finishing a GCSE exam have spoken out to thank the people who saved his life.
Joshua Efford was rushed to hospital after suffering a cardiac arrest while waiting to leave the exam room at Uckfield Community Technology College on Wednesday, June 3.
After three weeks in hospital, including a number of days in an induced coma, the 16-year-old was allowed home last Wednesday (June 24) and is now on the road to recovery.
His parents, Kathryn and Peter Efford, said: “There’s so many people we need to thank. From the moment we were told what had happened to the moment Josh walked back through the door, everyone was absolutely brilliant.
“The school nurse performed CPR on Josh for about 20-25 minutes - she saved his life. The consultants at the hospital all said how lucky it was she was there because there have been other cases where nobody has been able to perform CPR and it’s ended up so much worse.
“We took her a bouquet of flowers to say thank you but it seems so inadequate for what she has done. She’s an absolutely amazing lady and we’re forever indebted to her.
“Principal Hugh Hennebry and the rest of the college staff handled it so well. They could have panicked but instead, they stayed calm and made sure all the other pupils were back in their classrooms.
“Even the two Uckfield policemen that drove us to the hospital were brilliant, talking us through everything.
“The doctors and consultants at the hospital were so thorough, doing all of these tests to try and find out what happened. They said they treat patients like members of their family and you could really see it in their care. They kept a diary of his time in hospital and have given it to us to keep, which is really kind.
“Our friends, family, employers, and even people we don’t know on Facebook, have been so supportive, it really gives you a boost. Until something like this happens to you, you don’t realise how important those little things can be. “
Reliving the events of that day, Peter said: “The first time I saw him was in the Intensive Care Unit, and he had ice all around him to lower his body temperature .
“They put him in an induced coma but he kept having these fits, which were horrible. He’s never had fits before - doctors think it was his body’s reaction to the trauma of what had just happened.
“They needed to have a period of 24 hours without any fits before they brought him out of his coma. We took his iPod in and played music and car noises, because he loves cars and we thought the noise might be a nice familiarity.
“When he came round, he couldn’t speak so he had a white board to communicate with us. At first, we couldn’t understand what he was writing because his muscles were still a bit weak.
“He had a bit of short-term memory loss. We took him his iPad but we were worried he wouldn’t remember his password. He got it wrong the first time but then got it right when he tried again. That, even though it was the smallest of things, was such a relief because it showed he did remember some things.
“We could see the recognition in his eyes when we spoke to him, and if we asked him to poke out his tongue, he would, so we knew he didn’t have serious brain damage.
“From there, he really came on in leaps and bounds. He started breathing on his own and was moved to the children’s ward. Every thing from then onwards was a step forward and even the smallest of things was a huge encouragement.”
Kathryn said: “The doctors did all these tests on him, CT scans and MRI, but they couldn’t find anything wrong.
“There was no history of heart problems in the family and he was perfectly healthy beforehand. They’ve put him on some medication now but they think he will make a full recovery, which is incredible.
“It’s scary to think something like this can just happen out of the blue.
“He doesn’t remember anything - not even the exam before he collapsed. At the moment, he doesn’t want to remember, so he hasn’t read the diary doctors have given him or any of the newspapers, but that may come with time.”
Peter added: “Doctors have said it might have been an arrhythmia, where the heart goes out of sync, but apparently incidents like this aren’t as rare as people may think.
“He had been fine that morning. As parents, you know your children and if Kathryn had thought anything was wrong, she wouldn’t have taken him to school.”
Josh will return to the college in September to begin sixth form studies but until then, the focus is on having as much rest as possible. His parents said: “He’s been sleeping a lot because his body is so worn out. It’s just such a relief to have him home and we consider ourselves lucky it happened when it did, where someone was able to help him. If it had happened in his sleep or when nobody else was at home, the outcome could have been a lot worse. He’s had a small defibrillator put in his side now so that if it does happen again, this little machine will shock his heart. Our three daughters are also at the college and it’s so reassuring to know they’re in such good and safe hands. We really just can’t thank everyone enough.”
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