HEARTFELT THANKS: Today local man Paul Barker warmly thanks emergency nurse, Anna Duncan, paramedic Kim Summers, doctor Diane Ford and Tinus Hendriksz (absent) for saving his life after he suffered a cardiac arrest. Photo: Geoff O’Neill 181214GOB01HAD he not been playing the game he loved on a crisp July day, one Tamworth man’s sudden cardiac arrest may have proved fatal.
Almost six months ago, Paul Barker was playing hooker for the Tamworth Magpies rugby union second grade team alongside his sons Jack and Darcy, with his wife Kirsten watching from the sideline.
The last whistle had sounded and Mr Barker joined his teammates in song and formed a tunnel to cheer the first grade team onto the field.
The 53-year-old turned to speak to one of his fellow Magpies, when he collapsed mid-sentence.
A hush fell on the crowd, with one spectator saying you could “hear a pin drop”. The distress of Mr Barker’s wife and sons was palpable. What happened next can only be described as a “fortunate coincidence” by Mr Barker– a handful of off-duty medical experts, who were sitting back and enjoying the game, rushed to his fallen body.
Doctor Diane Ford was serving drinks at the bar, while paramedic Kim Summers saw Mr Barker drop as she stood on the clubhouse balcony.
Emergency nurse Anna Duncan was first on the scene, while Tinus Hendriksz – who is trained in mine rescue – also raced to Mr Barker’s side.
From there, the cobbled-together group said the emergency situation “ran like textbook” – they cleared his airways and started CPR.
In another twist of luck, a St John Ambulance was already on the scene with a basic defibrillator. The club had only had the facility there for a week.
“Playing rugby union that day in no way contributed to the sudden cardiac arrest I experienced,” Mr Barker said.
“In fact, being there, where there was a defibrillator, actually saved my life.”
The team shocked Mr Barker’s heart back into a healthy rhythm and an ambulance arrived three minutes after his collapse.
Mr Barker would later learn the shock must be applied within minutes and tragically 95 per cent of cardiac arrest victims die before they reach the hospital.
Mr Barker said he was “forever grateful” for the group who showed courage and used their skills while his life sat “on a razor’s edge”.
Having lived the trauma of a sudden cardiac arrest – which claims the lives of 30,000 Australians – Mr Barker is urging locals to get regular health checks and to learn CPR.
His plea is echoed by regional ambulance inspector Ray Tait, who notes Mr Barker’s is an “exceptional case”.
“It’s important for the general public to learn CPR,” Inspector Tait said.
“People need to step up to the plate.”
He had specialist treatment in Sydney, open heart surgery and a defibrillator implant, which regrettably signalled the end of his rugby career, though he plans to keep fit by completing triathlons.
Mr Barker’s cardiac arrest was an electrical malfunction of the heart that struck without warning, and is different to a heart attack (a result of coronary heart disease which can block a vessel that supplies blood to the heart), though the two are often confused.
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