THE stepfather of the girl who last week suffered a heart attack during a barmitzvah reception has spoken emotionally for the first time about the classmate who saved her life, writes ADAM CAILLER.
Speaking exclusively to the Jewish Telegraph, Jonathan Watch said that the family will be for ever in the debt of 13-year-old Corey Burns. The youngster performed CPR on Melissa Bickerdike at the event in Manchester, and called Jewish ambulance service Hatzola — both acts which potentially helped to save the girl’s life.
Corey and his family were invited to visit Melissa at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool on Sunday.
Mr Watch said: “It was very emotional. Corey is a very modest boy. Even on Sunday he was playing it down.
“He is the nicest, most amazing boy. I joked with his mother Sally, asking if I could adopt him — he will be like a son to us.”
Mr Watch, who is married to Lisa, confirmed that 13-year-old Melissa is getting stronger day by day.
He said: “She has clouding to the brain which has transpired to be short-term memory loss and mild long-term memory loss that comes in waves.
“However, she is getting stronger and is now out of intensive care.
“She is on heart medication because there is an irregular heartbeat that they can’t control — she was born with this, but got the all-clear when she was four.
“They are now saying that, when she is strong enough, she will have an operation to have a defibrillator fitted, which could be as early as next week.”
Radcliffe-based Mr Watch, who that the King David High School pupil’s speech is “slurred”.
He continued: “When she is tired, her speech is very hard to understand.
“The medical professionals, who have been great, aren’t committing themselves to a time scale at the moment . . . as much as you try and push them to do so.
“She is walking with the assistance of a physiotherapist, but not very well.
“She’s not the 13-year-old child she was a fortnight ago.”
Mr Watch recalled the harrowing events of the barmitzvah reception at the Village Hotel, Bury.
He explained that, having dropped an already apprehensive Melissa off at the party, he was called back almost immediately.
He said: “She was apprehensive because she didn’t recognise anyone who was there.
“We had a laugh and joke in the car, she went in and then my wife rang and said that she was told Melissa had fainted.
“I got back down there as fast as I could to see four ambulances, which I thought was a bit extreme.
“I visualised walking in to the room to see her sitting down on a chair being fanned — which is normally what happens when someone faints.
“But I saw her flat-out on the floor with paramedics, who were performing CPR.
“What do you do in that situation, and what do you say to the mother?”
Fighting back tears, Mr Watch recalled how CPR was performed for 40 minutes, together with the use of a defibrillator.
He said: “They also drilled into her shin and used this device to get drugs into her. It was quite horrific.
“I was told that I had to go in the ambulance with her in case she didn’t make it — I had still not spoken to her mother at this point.
“The ambulance went to set off, but the paramedics stopped the vehicle for another 20 minutes in the car park so that they could work on her again.
“We got to North Manchester General Hospital, where they were incredible, but said that she needed to go to Alder Hey and they had arranged special transport for her.
“They wanted 20 minutes to make her comfortable, which was around 1pm, but we didn’t leave until 9pm that night because she was not stable enough.”
Melissa was unconscious, but was put into an induced coma on arrival at Alder Hey.
Siblings Saul, 16, Bradley, 11, and Chloe, seven, are “confused”.
Mr Watch explained: “They haven’t been told the full story. How can you tell an 11-year-old and seven-year-old?
“It’s all very strange for them.”
Mr Watch revealed that work is being carried out on the family home should it need to be adapted once Melissa is well enough to leave the hospital.