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Back from the dead: the Bishop's Stortford woman whose life support was withdrawn



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Nikki Copping with her hero paramedic Mark Davy Picture: Vikki Lince
Nikki Copping with her hero paramedic Mark Davy Picture: Vikki Lince

She suffered a cardiac arrest, her family were told to say their last goodbyes and her life support was withdrawn - now a Bishop's Stortford mother of two is looking forward to the Christmas her husband and two children feared would never happen.

Nikki Copping, right, with paramedic Mark Davy and her colleagues at Little Acorns nursery at Thorn Grove Primary Picture: Vikki Lince
Nikki Copping, right, with paramedic Mark Davy and her colleagues at Little Acorns nursery at Thorn Grove Primary Picture: Vikki Lince

Nicky Copping, 47, will be celebrating the festivities with husband Gary, also 47, and children Jack, a 14-year-old Birchwood High School student, and Ella, 12, who attends Herts and Essex High School.

But just a couple of months ago, mourning her loss seemed more likely for her family as they said their last goodbyes and her life support was turned off.

Nicky is a nursery teacher at Thorn Grove Little Acorns. Slim and healthy, she rarely calls in sick. But one morning during October half term, Gary woke to find her still asleep beside him. This was out of the ordinary – Nicky is usually the early riser – but he got up, thinking she probably just needed the extra rest.

Minutes later, he heard her stop breathing. Nicky’s heart had stopped beating – she had gone into cardiac arrest.

He called 999 and control room staff told him to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and talked him through the method. Gary began the fight to save his wife’s life, watched anxiously by Jack and Ella.

Within four minutes of Gary’s call, paramedic Mark Davy, 59, arrived at their Mulberry Court home in a rapid response vehicle, with an ambulance close behind.

He started to shock Nicky with a defibrillator to restart her heart. It worked, but her breathing was very slow.

An air ambulance arrived and the doctors on board got into the land ambulance as Nicky was taken to Lister Hospital in Stevenage.

She was in a coma and on life-support. Her family were told there was no significant brain activity and they should say their goodbyes.

Nicky’s life support was then withdrawn, but she started to wriggle her toes and, miraculously, regained consciousness.

She is now back to her bubbly self and full of praise for the team who saved her life. “They’re all my heroes,” she said. “They do a fantastic job – everyone in the emergency services.”

Nicky is taking time off to recover, but she returned to Little Acorns to visit her colleagues and the children before the Christmas break.

Excited pupils presented her with pictures and sculpture while colleagues gave gifts, bouquets and lots of hugs.

Paramedic Mark was also present. “She was dead the last time I saw her,” he said. “We don’t often get happy endings.”

He said the circumstances that morning were just right. Gary woke at precisely the right time and started CPR moments after his wife stopped breathing. The 999 call-taker gave him detailed, coherent instructions to perform the technique.

After a cardiac arrest, survival depends on getting CPR as soon as possible. Almost 90% of people who suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests die. Good CPR can double or even triple the chance of survival.

Mark had the defib pads on her chest within six minutes of Gary calling 999, which was another key factor. If defibrillation is given rapidly, the survival rates can be as high as 75%. The chances of success decline at a rate of about 10% with each minute delay.

“Everything just fell into place,” said Mark. “It just wasn’t her time to go.”

Nicky was thrilled to have the chance to thank Mark and she presented him with a box of Cadbury Heroes.

“I’m a very lucky person to be here,” she said.

Nicky is now getting back to normality and getting ready for Christmas. “I feel so blessed to have such a loving family and fantastic emergency staff,” she said.



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