New Zealand Rugby Foundation’s new initiative saves Taranaki father’s life

New Zealand Rugby Foundation’s new initiative saves Taranaki father’s life

The lofty goal of the New Zealand Rugby Foundation to have a heart defibrillator on the outside of every rugby club in New Zealand has already saved a life.

The Foundation set the goal after one of its Board members, former All Blacks doctor John ‘Doc’ Mayhew had a cardiac arrest in 2016.

Chief executive Lisa Kingi-Bon says Doc would have died if there hadn’t been a defibrillator nearby which shocked his heart back into action within minutes of being resuscitated.

“It was a very scary time for Doc and his family. Our Board wanted to ensure something good came out of it so we set ourselves the goal of installing defibrillators on the outside of every rugby club in New Zealand.”

The NZ Rugby Foundation was founded in 1986 it provides lifelong support for 112 seriously injured players and their whānau and supports initiatives to prevent injuries in the sport.

“We saw the defibrillators as a great contribution to the thousands of Kiwis who play at clubs every weekend. COVID meant it took some time to raise the funds and the first 26 were put in place just weeks ago. We are grateful to the Lion Foundation and NZ Community Trust for their support.”

Already one of the defibrillators has saved a life.

On Tuesday 3 May, a father of two, collapsed after finishing a drill at a Coastal Rugby training at the club grounds in Rahotu in Taranaki. Within five minutes, his teammates had retrieved the defibrillator from the clubrooms and were using it.

Club Captain Kelvin Weir administered the shock and around 30 seconds later the player was responsive.

Kelvin says the defibrillator, combined with the swift actions of his team, made the difference.

"Emotions were high as we thought we were losing him. I'm so grateful we had the defib unit on-site - it was touch and go until we got the unit going and the shock administered. Within minutes he was sitting up, asking us what happened and wondering why we were all standing around him."

Janet Fleming Club Chair added “We are also so grateful that the players present knew how to perform CPR correctly prior to using the defibrillator.”

Echoed by Michael Braggins who employs Heinrich, “Hein is very important to us, both personally and professionally, and the news of this incident hit our team hard. We are grateful that Coastal team members were both capable and decisive in providing instant support and knew how to use the defib.”

NZ Rugby Foundation Board member and former All Black Graham Mourie hails from Rahotu Rugby Club. He’s blown away that an initiative the Board signed off has saved a life at his own club.

“It was a relatively simple idea and we always knew it had the potential to save lives. To see that it’s already done so is awesome and makes us even more determined to reach our goal of having the units on every rugby club in the country.”

And the man whose heart attack inspired the project, Doc Mayhew, is equally moved.

“We know defibrillators increase the survival rate of a person by more than 44% when used within 3-5 minutes of a cardiac arrest. I was blessed one was nearby when I collapsed. To know that my experience means there’ll be 500 more across the country is a great outcome.”

“It will save the lives of not just rugby players but also the communities that rugby clubs are in. They will know that there’s a defib on the club nearby – just in case they need it.”

Republished with permission from NZ Rugby Foundation