Quick-thinking saves teen from heart attack

17:00, Apr 11 2014

What are you meant to say to the people who saved your life?

That was the dilemma 16-year-old Pukekohe footballer Cameron Rigby faced after his coaches' quick actions and CPR skills gave him a second chance at life after he had a cardiac arrest during training.

Cameron collapsed on the Beresford St football fields in Pukekohe 15 minutes into his team's training on March 5.

His coaches Steve Cox and Mike Siemelink watched him fall to the ground and it did not take them long to realise there was something seriously wrong.

"I started to walk towards my car to get my phone thinking that it was bad enough and then I saw Steve flip him over and there was no response so I quickly rang the ambulance," Siemelink said.

He rushed over to Cameron, gave his phone to his son Nico, 16, and began to help Cox give him CPR.


Nico stayed on the phone with the emergency services giving them directions to the fields and relaying CPR instructions to his coaches.

Siemelink had completed a first-aid course and said he remembered everything "almost straight away".

Cox attempted to keep Cameron alert while Siemelink gave him chest compressions.

St John Franklin ambulance officers Gary Scurr and Garry Cliffe were the first emergency service on the scene.

Cliffe said Cameron was clinically dead for a short period of time.

"Initially, there was no radial pulse but within 10 seconds his state of consciousness began to come up," he said.

Scurr said without the great work of Cox and Siemelink, Cameron would not have recovered so fast.

"It would have been a different scenario," he said.

"I am not saying that we would not have brought him back [to life] but it would have been a long hard fight for him."

Cameron was taken by ambulance to Middlemore Hospital and was later transferred to Auckland Hospital where he had surgery to place an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) next to his heart.

Scurr said the ICD Cameron has was the same as former Maori All Blacks, Highlanders and Southland lock Hoani MacDonald was given after he collapsed while playing for Southland against the Steelers at ECOLight Stadium in 2010.

Cameron unknowingly had a heart condition that affects one in 500 people called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM).

It causes a portion of the heart to thicken and cause a sudden cardiac arrest.

Cameron said he had not felt out of breath during the warm up but did feel dizzy for part of it.

He has played football since he was six and found out this may have not been the first time it has happened to him.

"Last year, I was playing and I thought I had fainted but the doctors believed that it was actually a cardiac arrest but I got my heart back into rhythm myself," he said.

His father Stephen said they had taken him to a doctor but he was given the all-clear at the time.

Cameron cannot play any contact sports anymore to protect his heart but the keen sportsman has set his eyes on golf and hoped he would still be allowed to ski.

He is back at Pukekohe High School and said he was feeling completely normal again but was struggling to work out how to repay his coaches and the St John Franklin ambulance officers who saved his life.

"I can only say thank you and I am forever in their debt."

Waikato Times