Early one day in September 2023, Samantha Ungi and her family began a typical day. She dropped her middle son, Curtis, 15, off at school and returned home with her youngest, John-Paul, who attended the school she worked at.

Sam was supposed to be getting ready and heading in to work, taking JP to school with her, but she began to feel very sick. Sam asked her eldest son, Vinny, to stay home with her instead of going to Sixth Form because she was feeling so unwell, and it was then that she decided to take herself back to bed.  

Not long after heading up to bed to rest, Vinny recalls being called upstairs by his mum but when he entered her bedroom, he could see that she was unconscious and not breathing. Sam had suffered a cardiac arrest.

Swift action to save Sam

Vinny immediately called 999 and with 12-year-old John-Paul's help, the two boys followed the instructions of the call handler, gently lowering their mum from her bed onto the floor. 17-year-old Vinny then began performing CPR, delivering chest compressions which would help to keep blood circulating to Samantha’s brain and vital organs.

Vinny did an amazing job, continuing to do this for 14 minutes until the land ambulance arrived. During this time, Vinny had also called his dad, John, to let him know what was happening so that he could make his way home from work in Exeter.  

Shortly after the land ambulance arrived, our critical care crew were also on the scene. Our doctor was able to take over Samantha’s breathing by conducting an intervention called intubation. Once this delicate and highly specialised procedure was complete, Sam was prepared to be transferred to Torbay Hospital by land ambulance, accompanied by our crew. On arrival, she was rushed into surgery.  

Sam had a stent fitted and was placed into an induced coma to allow her body to heal and to ensure the best chance of recovery. It was a tense time for the whole family but after several failed attempts to wake her, Sam regained consciousness and within just one week, was up and about with minimal lasting damage. Sam said:

I would like to thank the Devon Air Ambulance crew; without their dedication and hard work I would not be here to tell my story. I am extremely grateful that they flew to me so quickly that morning. Even though I didn’t fly to hospital in the helicopter, the expertise of the crew kept me stable on my journey in the land ambulance. I will forever be indebted to them all.

‘As a family we are so thankful and so proud of Vinny for giving me the best chance of survival, his CPR was phenomenal (his school having the forethought to teach it). Our Hero. Always.

'John-Paul was also very brave and that is one thing I will never forget. Curtis may not have been at home that morning, but he supported both his brothers and dad tremendously throughout.’

A fairytale conclusion

During her week in the intensive care unit, Sam’s family from Torquay and Liverpool never left her side. Sam’s partner John had even made a promise to her family that as soon as he could, he would finally marry her and Samantha Ungi became Samantha Poynton on January 13, 2024. 
Sam said: ‘Since receiving the news that I was incredibly lucky to be alive, John promised my brother when I was in hospital that, if I survived, he would marry me. So, on the 13th of January we were married. John, the three boys and I had the most magical, perfect day together - just the five of us. Vinny, my hero, walked me down the aisle, Curtis was John's best man, giving the most amazing speech and John-Paul was our ring bearer. Without Devon Air Ambulance, we could not have celebrated this wonderful occasion.’ 

Recently, the Poynton family were invited to DAA’s Eaglescott Airbase to visit our Patient and Family Support Team and see the air ambulance up close. Samantha’s youngest son, John-Paul, thoroughly enjoyed this experience: ‘The helicopter was excellent! It was so fun being able to sit in the helicopter for the first time.’  

Samantha said:

It was an honour to meet all the staff at the Airbase. I will forever be grateful for all the hard work they do, and they all hold a special place in my heart. Our visit to the airbase was perfect, and I appreciate all the staff for putting on a lovely visit for us.

Curtis added: ‘It was important to meet the people who didn’t just save my mum's life but saved all of us.’  

Whilst at the airbase, Vinny and John-Paul were presented with certificates to recognise the quick thinking and bravery that saved their mum's life. Reflecting on this visit, Vinny remarked: ‘It was an amazing experience to be able to meet the team, they are all very kind people.’   

Our patients' stories help more people to learn about our lifesaving service and we are grateful to every patient who is willing to share theirs. Got a story to share? We'd love to hear form you. 

Sam with two of her boys at our Eaglescott airbase