Over the weekend Neil and I drove down to New South Wales for a race I had entered, the 50km Freedom Trail Race. Because of the time difference, the early start and the long drive we decided that we would head down the day before and camp out near the start of the race at the Rummery Park Campground.
After about a two and a half hour drive we arrived just before 6pm, just enough time to set up camp and have dinner before the sun had set. The camping grounds were located quite far away from nearby towns and had no phone reception. Because of the race there were a lot more people in the park than there usually would be in this area.
It was a beautiful evening, perfect temperatures and stunning scenery. I was excited about my race the next day and hoping to do well in it.
I was quite keen on having an early night as I planned to get up at 5am for the 6:30am race start time so at about 8am I tried to get to sleep.
At around 11pm I was awoken by a woman yelling out 'Does anyone know CPR', I was a little dazed at first until Neil, who was beside me, yelled my name. This completely woke me up and I lunged for the tent door, struggling to find the zips to open up the tent which seemed to be taking forever but was probably only a few seconds. I got the tent open and yelled for Neil to pass me the torch, he quickly threw it into my hands and I ran towards a small crowd of people about a hundred meters away.
As soon as I arrived I saw a man who appeared to be in his 30's, I recognized him instantly as him and his friend who he was camping with were set up just beside where I was cooking dinner earlier on. His name was Mark.
I knelt down beside Mark when another man, Craig Gamble (another runner in the race) was also already assessing the situation. It didn't take long before both Craig and I decided that Mark needed CPR right away. We checked to see if he had anything in his mouth or throat, once it was determined it was clear we both agreed that Craig would do the 30 chest compression's and I would do the two rescue breaths.
In between the rescue breaths I asked everyone if anyone had called for an ambulance, it appeared that no one had yet. Because there was no reception, Neil took Marks friend, Sam, with him to drive down the mountain and call for help.
There were three different occasions that there may have been signs of life, it looked like Mark had started to try and breath by himself, his hands and arms would start moving a bit but as soon as this would happen he would quickly fade away again.
There were some people around us that were no help at all, one person at different times would start trying to slap Marks face. People were yelling when we were initially checking his airwaves to see if there was anything lodged down his throat (which took only a few seconds), telling us to start CPR, all very unhelpful and incredibly frustrating. Luckily both Craig and I were able to focus on the situation and get on with things while others were able to deal with those people.
Even though there was absolutely no way that Craig or I would stop CPR we both had started to loose hope as the situation wasn't looking good. Mark was getting cold, his face was going blue and I was never able to find a pulse in between my rescue breaths.
It took nearly an hour of CPR before the ambulance finally arrived. They quickly took over and started work right away. Amazingly, after working on him and shocking him with the defibrillator they were able to get his heart back to a regular rhythm and have him breathing on his own again! They loaded Mark into the ambulance and drove him to a nearby helicopter that was waiting to take him to the hospital.
I didn't get any sleep for the rest of the night, I couldn't get the image of Marks lifeless face out of my mind, the entire time it looked as if he was staring right at me. I was also thinking about what I could have done better, what I may have done wrong but most of all if I was wondering if he was going to survive.
The next day during the race I almost broke down a few times, thinking about what had happened really hit me, it was an extremely unusual experience, even more unusual that we had to perform CPR for that long.
After the race we got a message from Marks friend Sam, he told us that Mark was now recovering in hospital and let us know that we saved his life. He also said that the hospital staff had told him that we did a terrific job. Hearing that he was alive and recovering was probably the best news I have ever heard in my life. It was amazing.
Throughout the past few years I have done many First Aid/CPR courses. So many times I have gone through the chest compression's and rescue breaths on the dummy's that the courses provide. I never actually thought that one day I would have to use this knowledge in a real life situation.
If you are reading this and haven't completed a CPR course in the past year, then please book one in now! I've already booked in my next one. You never know what may happen and you may just save a life.