Surf Lifesaver and teacher Elke Readman saved Lib Ruytenberg's life after she performed CPR on Lib at her home. Elke had only been there to pick up a purchase when she used her training to respond to the unforseen event.
Surf Lifesaver and teacher Elke Readman saved Lib Ruytenberg's life after she performed CPR on Lib at her home. Elke had only been there to pick up a purchase when she used her training to respond to the unforseen event. Marc Stapelberg

Gumtree exchange saved Lismore woman's life

IT'S the Gumtree exchange that saved a life.

When 67-year-old Lib Ruytenberg had a cardiac arrest at her Lismore home, the only thing standing between her and death was a stranger collecting a free wine rack she had advertised on the classifieds website.

And that stranger just happened to have been waiting 15 years for that moment.

"It was instantaneous," Cabarita Beach SLSC patrol captain Elke Readman said of her response when the woman she had met minutes earlier collapsed as they carried part of the wine rack to her car.

"I'd never had to do CPR but 15 years of training just makes you go 'This is what I have to do' ... within 30 seconds I was dialling triple 0.

"A few times Lib took gasping breaths and I'd roll her into the recovery position hoping they'd continue, but they didn't so I'd roll her back and start CPR again.

"The time didn't even occur to me. I was just going through the motions - compressions, breaths, compressions, breaths. It wasn't until that night when I checked my (phone's) call log that I realised I was on the line to triple 0 for 19 minutes."

That's right - the 32-year-old schoolteacher spent almost 20 minutes single-handedly holding the Grim Reaper at bay before paramedics tapped her on the shoulder and said 'Well done, we'll take it from here'.

After using a defibrillator and administering oxygen, the ambos and an unconscious Lib sped off to hospital - leaving Elke all on her lonesome.

"That was hard because I didn't know what the outcome was going to be," she said. "That night I had a debrief with my husband and a friend, which was so important, and I decided I needed to find closure either way.

"The hospital weren't allowed to tell me anything but an hour later one of the paramedics called and said 'Amazing job, she's still alive because you knew what you were doing'.

"I hoped so badly for a positive outcome and to hear that news, your shoulders just drop and you think 'Thank God'."

After spending a week at Lismore Base Hospital, Lib was transferred to Gold Coast Private Hospital where she had a cardioverter defibrillator implanted to correct an arrhythmia, aka irregular heartbeat.

Inspired by her serendipitous tale of survival, the hospital has since hosted a free CPR course to hand more people the tools that saved her life.

"I'm walking, I'm breathing, I'm alive," Lib said as she prepared to meet her saviour for the third time at our photo shoot - not that she can remember the other occasions.

"Elke visited me in hospital but I have pretty much no recollection of that week. I don't even recall meeting her before I collapsed.

"But I'm so grateful for what she did. It must have been so scary. You don't expect to turn up to someone's house for a routine exchange and see them drop in front of you. I just can't wait to give her a big hug."



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