A friendly rugby match nearly turned tragedy when, early in the second half of the match between Ealing Evergreens and UCS Old Boys, the forward collapsed.
As he lay with no pulse and not breathing, his teammate and Ealing scrum half Justin Green began CPR and chest compressions to keep John’s heart pumping blood and oxygen around his body while paramedics were called.
Luckily, Justin is not only a doctor but had just been on a CPR refresher course.
Even more luckily, Justin’s opposite number from UCS Old Boys had just attended defibrillator training.
And Ealing Trailfinders – the ground at which the match took place on Friday 8 October – has a defibrillator.
UCS’ Sid Young ran and got the club’s defibrillator and within two minutes of Justin’s CPR, Sid put his training – and the defibrillator – into action. And just minutes later, John’s pulse returned, he began breathing again and was placed in recovery position while awaiting the ambulance.
Affectionately known as “Big John”, the patient spent a couple of nights in hospital and is now recuperating at home.
The incredible combination of factors that came together to save John’s life reflects the importance of having defibrillators in rugby clubs, which is the major aim of the Richmond Heavies Foundation Defibrillator Fund. The Richmond Heavies Foundation (RHF) is a rugby charity linked to south-west London’s Richmond Rugby Club and set up the RHF Defibrillator Fund with one clear vision: to put a working defibrillator in every rugby club in the land, with people trained to use it.
Through the extraordinary efforts of some ordinary rugby people, the RHF will soon have helped over 60 community rugby clubs receive a proper working defibrillator, ensuring players, supporters and the local rugby – and wider – community can be saved in the event of a catastrophe.
John said of his experience: “I don’t think it’s resonated yet – I haven’t really digested the gravity of what happened.
“I’m exceptionally lucky. Had it not have been for the defibrillator at Trailfinders and the personnel trained in using it, my journey would have ended that Friday. I believe that every rugby club and indeed every player should have access to the kit. It saves lives.
“I want to say thank you to the Richmond Heavies Foundation for the tireless work they are doing for the rugby community by bringing defibrillators into every rugby club in the country. I think it’s vital, necessary work and rugby as a whole is better for this cause.”
Alongside partners the Community Heartbeat Trust, the RHF Defibrillator Fund has already distributed 20 defibrillators and with the efforts of members of the Richmond Heavies Foundation, another 40 will be installed and personnel trained to use them.
The RHF Defibrillator Fund has been supported by incredible fundraising efforts from across the Richmond Rugby family. One of the Heavies, Rupert Allhusen, became the first-every rugby prop to swim the English Channel in 2020, raising enough for the Foundation to distribute 20 working defibrillators to community rugby clubs earlier this year.
More recently, a team of ten Foundation supporters cycled the length of Britain – from Land’s End to John O’Groats – raising enough to help deliver working defibrillators to at least a further 40 clubs.
Neil Darke of the Richmond Heavies Foundation said: “Recent events in both rugby and football – and stories like John’s – starkly demonstrate how important defibs can be. Having access to a defib at every club can make that life-saving difference for players and supporters on and off the pitch.
“The outstanding efforts of our RHF community continue to ensure we are moving towards our vision of having a working defib – and trained personnel to use them – in every rugby club across the country, ensuring lives can and will be saved on and off the pitch.”
Find out more about the Richmond Heavies Foundation Defibrillator Fund click here.
“The foundation is committed to a long term programme of screening for all players and members of Richmond over the age of 14”
“This opportunity is one of a kind really, the fact that players don’t have to pay for it is invaluable”
Richmond Women’s Chair
“Richmond are going to lead the way on this, hopefully other clubs will follow”
“As rugby players we are meant to be big strong and nothing really hurts us, but mental health effects everyone”
Kirsty Lee Griffith
Richmond Women’s Player
“There are many reasons to support the foundation, not only are you helping to save lives but you're making it a safer and better place to play”
“without screening you just never know, its very important, its brilliant work what the Richmond Heavies are doing, I’m glad to be part of it”
“it’s a magnificent club and the foundation is a wonderful testament to the way Richmond behaves, it’s fantastic and I’m very proud”
Richmond Heavies Player
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Richmond Men’s Player
“it is a blueprint, not just for clubs but communities”
England Rugby Player
“mental health is an area which is so missed and not appreciated how much it is needed in this environment, its amazing what they are doing here”
England Rugby Player
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