Beach walkers save woman after anaphylaxis-induced cardiac arrest

6 May 2022

In December 2020, Jennifer Kelly was enjoying a walk along Leighton Beach with her sister Anne when she was stung by a bee. Immediately feeling the effects of the sting, Jennifer collapsed. As Anne struggled to support her, two passers-by who were out walking their dog – Ryan Ebeling and his wife – came upon the scene.

“We asked if they were okay and whether we could help,” recalls Ryan. “Jennifer wasn’t able to speak at that point, so we offered to help get her off the beach. We picked her up and started to carry her off the beach but as we were walking, I was watching her face and noticed her lips were turning blue and she had become unresponsive.”

Unbeknownst to the group, Jennifer had suffered a severe anaphylactic reaction to the sting and had gone into cardiac arrest. “I told the others to put her down and that we had to start CPR,” says Ryan. “We didn’t even have our phones with us; CPR was all we could do.”

Anne sought assistance from other members of the public to call an ambulance and nearby surf lifesavers. One of these people was Karol Sokolowski, who hailed down a car to alert the surf lifesavers at Leighton for immediate medical assistance. He then proceeded to join Ryan in providing CPR. The pair worked in tandem to administer CPR on Jennifer, with Ryan performing compressions while Karol administered rescue breaths for approximately 20 minutes until ambulance officers arrived.

Paramedics then took over and continued administering CPR, also applying a defibrillator and multiple adrenaline shots before Jennifer was transferred to hospital for further treatment. Thankfully, Jennifer was able to make a full recovery. Hospital staff and ambulance officers later told Jennifer that had Ryan and Karol not acted so swiftly, along with administering ‘textbook’ CPR, she may not have survived the incident.

Ryan Ebeling and Karol Sokolowski with WA Governor Kim Beazley and RLSSWA President Colin HassellRyan and Karol were each presented with a Royal Life Saving Gold Medallion Bravery Award at the 2021 Bravery Awards ceremony for their timely response, which ultimately saved Jennifer’s life. There were many responders on the beach that day who contributed to the rescue, but it is clear that Ryan and Karol provided an outstanding response and are well worthy of recognition.

“I’m just glad I was able to help and that she has made a full recovery,” says Ryan on receiving the award. He also has some important advice for others: 

“CPR works. I did a Bronze Medallion when I was younger, and I do yearly first aid refreshers with my work. If you can get some training, do it. You never know if you’ll need it.”

If you know someone who has stepped in to help save someone's life, ensure they receive the recognition they deserve by nominating them for a Bravery Award at the link below:

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