Paramedic Quinch with Dr Portier

A Melbourne paramedic sings the praises of a new app that brings lifesaving responders to the aid of people in cardiac arrest

Modern technology may help us find services and connect with people in real time, but when seconds matter most, smart tech can literally mean the difference between life and death.

That’s the lesson that Quinch Wong, a 35-year-old Melbourne paramedic, learned early one morning in January, when an app on his smartphone alerted him to a cardiac arrest in the gym of his Docklands apartment.

‘I was fast asleep when the call came in, and I rushed down to find two bystanders doing CPR on a man who’d collapsed on a fitness machine,’ Quinch remembers.

‘I was in contact with the ambulance crew who were there almost instantly, and I guided them to the gym where we were able to treat the patient with a defibrillator from the swimming pool.’

Quick thinking

Those precious seconds undoubtedly helped to save the life of Dr Christopher Portier, the 62-year-old Swiss tourist who’d collapsed on the cross-trainer that morning.

Quinch was alerted to the emergency by GoodSAM, a smartphone app that notifies the nearest ‘trusted responder’ when a suspected cardiac arrest is reported to Ambulance Victoria. When a call comes in, the app alerts up to three nearby responders – providing the location of the patient as well as the nearest automated defibrillator.

Since the app was introduced in Victoria last year, nearly 4,000 paramedics, nurses and other first aid-trained professionals have signed up.

Lifesaving seconds

‘There have been so many times that I’ve thought, “If only I was here a few minutes earlier,”’ says Quinch. ‘With cardiac arrests, the chances of surviving literally drop by 10 to 12 per cent every minute that goes by without defibrillation.’

Quinch, who also teaches paramedicine at Monash University, says he has no doubt GoodSAM saves lives.

‘In this case, I think most of the credit has to go to the bystanders, whose quick action saved Dr Portier,’ he says. ‘But we all worked as a team. I was able to get the ambulance crew there quickly, and then I helped get in an IV and start an adrenaline drip.

‘This was really a good case of everyone working together as a team to save this man’s life.’

A grateful stranger

Dr Portier has no doubt that he owes his life to the quick actions of those who were first on the scene.

‘They saved my life and there is no hesitation about that,’ he says. ‘Without their CPR, given the amount of time my heart was not functioning, I would have likely had a brain injury, but that does not seem to have occurred.’

‘I’m extremely lucky these people were present and knew what to do.’

‘By joining GoodSAM I can maybe be there two minutes before the ambulance – but those two minutes can be vital to someone’s life,’ adds Quinch.

‘As a paramedic on my days off, it really feels like the right thing to be doing something like this. It feels like a service to the community – and I think my family will be proud of me doing this.’