SunLive – Tennis players rally to save woman’s life


When registered nurse Jane Brunton was playing tennis on a hot summer morning in Waikato, she didn’t expect the woman serving across from her to collapse.

Jane initially thought the woman was suffering from heatstroke, as they had played three hours of interclub games in temperatures of 30C.

Jane and her teammates had considered ending the match early because of the heat.

As Jane approached to see if the woman was okay, she was joined by other players.

Jane recently completed her New Zealand Resuscitation Council CORE advanced training, which equips healthcare professionals with the knowledge and skills to respond to cardiac arrest, typically in a hospital or medical setting. Jane didn’t expect to have to use her resuscitation training during one of her tennis matches.

The woman collapsed in a way that made Jane think she had passed out from heatstroke. However, the woman was unresponsive and snored. This noise is known as an agonal gasp, it is a sign that someone is in cardiac arrest. This is not normal breathing and an indicator that CPR should begin.

Another player trained in first aid started CPR as Jane, her teammates and competitors stepped up to help her. Jane took over CPR and organized her team to save the woman’s life.

Jane tasked Julie with finding a defibrillator also known as an AED. Julie knew there was one in the clubhouse where they played. Unfortunately, the AED was not in its usual place as there had been a medical event a few weeks prior that necessitated its use.

Julie reacted quickly and found the replacement battery. Julie brought the DEA to Jane who was pursuing CPR, and Julie took a quick tour of the other grounds to see if any other players had CPR knowledge to help Jane with the woman in cardiac arrest.

Julie called herself the “gofer”. Once she asked the other courts if anyone knew about CPR, Julie went to make sure the door was open, so the ambulance could easily access the courts and she helped direct the ambulance when ‘she arrived.

Michelle, the woman’s friend and teammate, remembers holding her hand and reassuring her that everything would be fine.

Because of the heat, another teammate found an umbrella to protect them from the sun while Jane performed CPR. Jane knew what she was doing and she continued the chest compressions.

“You remember training and DRS ABCD, but you have to push a lot harder than you do on a CPR dummy.” Jane remembers.

When the AED arrived, Jane hooked it up and followed the instructions.

Jane continued CPR and the woman became conscious after a few shocks from the DEA. By the time the ambulance arrived, the woman was awake and talking.

Michelle accompanied the woman in the ambulance to the hospital where she was immediately assessed and required triple bypass surgery.

The passionate tennis players continue to play, and the woman is back on the court to play against them. The women estimate that they have all been playing together for 15 to 20 years.

Sometimes it takes a team to save a life. Even if you’re not the person performing CPR, taking steps like getting an AED, directing an ambulance, calling 111, and supporting your friends can help save a life.

The quick actions of the woman’s teammates and competitors saved her life. They decided to call the game a draw.

Only one in ten survive cardiac arrest. We can beat that, and that’s what World Restart a Heart Day is all about. Click here to find out more:


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