Family devastated after learning machine which could have saved mum’s life was two minutes away
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A 'devastated' family are grieving the loss of a mother after she died less than 200 yards away from a machine that could have saved her life.
Sharon Beales, from Newbury, Berkshire, suffered a cardiac arrest earlier this year while watching a movie on 18 January.
The 56-year-old's family say they called 999 after the colour drained from her face and she began foaming at the mouth.
One of her sons spoke to the call handler from South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS), who asked him about an AED - which is an automated external defibrillator.
However, in the confusion, he thought they'd said IED, as in the explosive device.
They also claim the call handler did not advise them to go to their nearest device, which was situation 160 yards away, in an old phone box, and access it - something SCAS later admitted.
Sadly, Sharon was later induced into a coma and she had life support withdrawn on 29 January.
Speaking about her mother, Yasmin Maskell said she was utterly devastated.
"Our mum was such a wonderful woman," said the 28-year-old. "We're absolutely devastated, and we don't want this to happen to anyone else.
"There was a failure that should never have happened, and we need to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
"There needs to be a better system for the public to know how to use defibrillators and an easier way for the public to access them.
"Even if you know there is one, you can’t access it without getting the code from the NHS."
After he spotted something wasn't right, Sharon's husband Laurence called out for their two sons, and while one carried out CPR, the other called for help.
But despite the call handler mentioning the AED, they didn't direct the son to go and find the one that was nearby.
"It's crazy - the term AED didn't mean anything to my brother," said Yasmin.
"It's a problem with the NHS system too, she needed to press a button to see where the defibrillator was but she didn't know to do that.
"And she shouldn't need to know - the system should just flag up if there's a defibrillator nearby. The coroner said that too.
"That poor girl will be feeling awful, but she shouldn't have to. There was a gap in the system and shouldn't be.
"I would urge everyone to make yourselves aware of the location of defibrillators and how to use them."
Speaking during the inquest into Sharon's death, Dr Matthew Frise, a doctor in the intensive care unit at Royal Berkshire Hospital, said earlier intervention could have potentially saved her - though a definitive outcome is impossible to predict.
He said: "The key intervention in that situation is defibrillation; it reduces the amount of time the patient spends without oxygenated blood getting to the brain.
"Had a defibrillator been provided several minutes sooner it would have offered a better chance of survival."
A spokesperson for SCAS said: "We would like to express our sincere condolences to Ms Beales’ family for their loss.
"The call taker managed many of the aspects of the call well, including providing essential CPR instructions.
"However, they did not advise the family to access their nearest community defibrillator.
"Following Ms Beales’ sad death, we are undertaking a review to ensure any learning is identified and implemented to prevent a similar occurrence from happening again."
Sharon's cause of death was recorded as hypoxic brain injury caused by cardiac ventricular arrhythmia.