Malaga dance teacher thanks heroes after heart scare


Jemma Wrightson with daughter Aria.        
Picture: David Baylis  d465974
Jemma Wrightson with daughter Aria.         Picture: David Baylis d465974

IN January, doctors were not sure whether Malaga dance teacher Jemma Wrightson would live another day after a heart scare caused her to collapse in front of her students.

Medics told her she was dead for seven minutes and her colleagues who performed CPR said she was blue.

Less than six weeks later she is home with her 18-month-old daughter Aria and partner Andrew, living each day as if it’s her last.

Going back to that day, Miss Wrightson, who spent 12 days in hospital including two in an induced coma, said she had been excited for her first day back at school.

“Once I arrived, I was super-excited and I gave them (students) all a cuddle,” she said.

“We had only really done a few steps and I collapsed. As I went down I smashed my chin on the studio floor and split it straight open, causing it to bleed instantly.

“The girls (colleagues) were just fantastic and thought so fast to turn the children to the back and face the wall and keep them from seeing blood, but at this stage they just thought I had fainted and noticed I’d banged my chin.”

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The 27-year-old said it wasn’t until they noticed she was not responding that they began to think it was something serious.

“My boss Taryn Todaro leaned down and gave me a little shake,” she said.

“She said she realised at that second I wasn’t responding or breathing and my body was completely limp.

“It was then that she and my other colleague Tanaye Shaw began to give me CPR and called an ambulance.

“I was vomiting up blood and bile and when the ambulance pulled up they walked over to me, cut my clothes off and they used the defibrillator and got my heart going again.”

At the hospital, doctors put Miss Wrightson into an induced coma and social workers told her mother and Andrew to prepare for the worst.

“They said things were not looking good for me and I was not in a good way at all,” she said.

“I wasn’t breathing for so long and oxygen was not getting to my brain, so they thought I could also have major brain damage.

“I was in a coma for two nights and then on the Monday I was woken up with my whole family around me.

“I named everyone and they cried with relief.”

Doctors diagnosed Miss Wrightson with heart disorder Long QT Syndrome and Grave’s disease and while normally the conditions are on their own, together it made for a bad combination.

She had heart surgery to install a defibrillator and spent the next few days recovering.

“As the days went on I got better and was recovering really well,” she said.

“I started to write my name, eat, go to the toilet on my own and even took steps and was discharged on Wednesday, February 8.

“I spent 12 nights in hospital and I walked out alive, with no brain damage and able to go home with my family – it was a very emotional time.”

Miss Wrightson is now on medication and on notice from her doctors to rest until she is fully recovered.

Last week she visited the place where it all happened and hopes she will one day dance again.

Most of all she wants her story to encourage people to learn CPR.

“I will live a ‘normal’ life again – I feel I already am really but obviously I’m still recovering,” she said.

“They (the doctors and nurses) all said your friends must have given you the best CPR possible because there is no way in this world you could be standing here without it.

“They said my friends basically saved my life that day, while they put me on the mend – that is the ultimate gift to give someone.”

Friends and colleagues from the dance fraternity and beyond also came together to help raise almost $16,000 so Miss Wrightson can adjust to life at home for a while.