Nurse saves man's life after he suffers heart attack during Doncaster Parkrun

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A nurse leapt into action to save the life of a 55-year-old man who collapsed after suffering a heart attack at a Doncaster Parkrun.

Nicola Wilkinson, a research nurse at Doncaster Royal Infirmary, was on hand to save the man after he collapsed in Sandall Park.

Nicola, who had also been taking part in the race, stepped in after noticing a group of people gathered around him.

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“I could tell he wasn’t fine. He had no output pulse at all.” she explained.

Nicola came to the rescue after a runner collapsed with a heart attack in Doncaster.Nicola came to the rescue after a runner collapsed with a heart attack in Doncaster.
Nicola came to the rescue after a runner collapsed with a heart attack in Doncaster.

Despite muscle spasms and jerking movements, something that led onlookers to believe the man was okay, Nicola knew the situation was potentially fatal and immediately began CPR.

“I said to the people around me I need a defibrillator, scissors and I need anyone else who can do CPR.”

The avid runner, who has worked in the NHS in Doncaster for just over 22 years, was joined by a fellow colleague, David Langford, an Operating Department Practitioner at DRI, who leapt in to lend a hand after also completing the run.

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The pair shocked the man with the defibrillator and another round of CPR before finally getting an output pulse. The man had suffered a cardiac arrest.

Paramedics were called by the director of the run.

“The park runners were amazing. They had made a curtain of respect around the man for his dignity.” Nicola explained.

Once the paramedics arrived, the man was taken to the Coronary Care Unit at DRI.

Following the ordeal, Nicola, who has been running every day for three and a half years, took herself to Dunkin’ Donuts for a needed sugar rush, only to be messaged by a colleague in A&E who received the patient, praising her for saving the man’s life.

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This was shortly followed by messages of heartfelt gratitude from the man’s family and friends.

Being trained as a nurse to deal with life-threatening and time-pressured scenarios means situations like this trigger a knee-jerk reaction, Nicola explained.

“I just snapped into action,” she said.

“I was just relieved more than anything that the patient got back to A&E,”

“I don't feel like I’ve done anything extraordinary, as a nurse I’ve been trained to do that. If I see someone in distress I can’t just walk away. I’ll always try to help and fix the situation,”

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The incident has sparked discussions amongst local joggers of the importance of having a defibrillator nearby for events such as park runs.

With a less than 10% survival rate of cardiac arrest outside of hospitals, this important piece of equipment is an essential to safely conducting running events, Nicola explained.

“We may never need the defibrillator, or use it, but wouldn’t you rather have it in that moment when they are needed?”

In April 2019, Nicola created the Facebook group ‘Runners United!!’ , a forum for runners to share their running progress, advice and experiences. The group now has approx. 1,200 members.

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Nicola, who has recently qualified as an English athletics running coach, regularly fundraises when completing running events.

The man, an avid jogger and marathon-runner, made a full recovery with no long-term injuries. He even suggested a run together with Nicola.

“I said I’m not sure I want to do another park run with you - you need time to recover!” she said.