Hearty thanks from netballer

'They resuscitated her nine times'

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 07/09/2013
Kelly Widdowson
JOHN HAWKINS/Fairfax NZ

CHEER-UP TIME: Netballers Rachel Rasmussen, left, and Wendy Frew gave Kelly Widdowson a Southern Steel double season pass for next year.

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Kelly Widdowson has plenty of people to be grateful to after a game of netball became a matter of life and death.

The 26-year-old mother of two is recovering in Southland Hospital after suffering not just one, but nine heart attacks that started during a club game a fortnight ago.

Miss Widdowson was playing for her Otatara Diamonds team in its club semifinal when she began to feel ill just a minute after the opening centre pass at Surrey Park.

"I remember everything from the stadium to [Southland Hospital]. I remember being here, went into cardiac arrest twice and woke up wondering what was going on ... and then nothing until a week later," the Invercargill student said.

Miss Widdowson's condition was so grave the decision was made to airlift her to Dunedin, but because of adverse weather she was instead taken by ambulance to Clinton, and then on to Dunedin.

Her mother, Di McKay, believes that decision might have helped save her life.

"They resuscitated her nine times. When she flatlined they worked on her for 12 to 15 minutes, as I understand it. The saving grace was that they couldn't get the helicopter through, because they probably wouldn't have been able to do that. They had two ambo crews and the ICU crew, they had so many people around to be able to do stuff."

Despite her ordeal, Miss Widdowson is well on the mend.

She was brought back to Southland Hospital earlier this week in time for son Cyrus' sixth birthday and on Thursday her healing heart was given a test when the avid netball fan was visited by Southern Steel players Wendy Frew and Rachel Rasmussen.

"It's so exciting. My mum and dad were trying to organise it without me knowing, but I'm glad I figured it out because I've had enough frights," she said.

Along with some signed memorabilia, Frew and Rasmussen presented Miss Widdowson with a double season pass for next year.

Remarkably, Miss Widdowson has suffered no brain damage, or even any long-term memory loss.

She dreams of one day being able to get back out on to the netball court.

For the record, her Diamonds team won their semifinal against Collegiate, but lost in the final against Verdon College.

"I reckon they put too much pressure on themselves, because they said they were going to win it for [Kelly]," Mrs McKay said.

Miss Widdowson said she owed her life to the care of the St John Ambulance staff, and the emergency and intensive care staff at Southland and Dunedin hospitals.

Mrs McKay said staff had even washed her daughter's hair while she was unconscious in intensive care and several Southland staff members had gone out of their way to check on her condition while she was in Dunedin hospital.

"They are awesome people, they touch people's lives every day and have such an impact on them," Mrs McKay said.

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- The Southland Times

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