'Thanks for saving my Ron's life'

Torbay Weekly

A wife has paid tribute to three tennis players who saved her husband's life after he suffered a cardiac arrest during a game in Torquay.

Ron Cooke, 83, was playing his beloved sport at Cary Park Tennis Club in Babbacombe, when he collapsed on court, suffering heart and respiratory failure.

But miraculously among two dozen people playing in a group session at the same time were two doctors and an ex-British Airways steward who is an advanced first-aider.

The three heroes worked on ex-builder Ron for 10 minutes before they were able to get his heart and breathing going again. He was being treated in ICU at Torbay Hospital.

The three members are to be nominated for a life-saving award and Ron's wife Ron’s wife Helen said: "I can’t thank everyone concerned enough for saving Ronnie’s life."

One of the doctors, retired haematologist Steve Smith, said: "It is rare for someone in an out-of-hospital situation to recover. But we were incredibly lucky; there were three of us so we were able to take it in turns doing CPR.

"But where we were also lucky was that we had a fully-operational defibrillator machine at the club and we were able to shock Ron as well as giving him constant CPR."

He added: "It is vital that everyone watches the videos available on You Tube which demonstrate how to use this incredible machine. Next time, it could be them faced with the challenge."

The club bought the £1,500 machine three years ago after two popular members died within weeks of each other of (non-tennis-related) heart attacks.

Now as a further tribute, the company which supplied the machine has pledged another – completely free of charge – to be sited elsewhere in the community.

The second doctor involved, paediatrician Jonny Graham, said: "Several other people were vital as well as the three of us. One called 999 and dealt with the ambulance service while another dashed to the other end of the courts to get the defibrillator.

"Then another contacted Ron’s family to get some medical history vital to the paramedics. It was a real team effort and the club members should be incredibly proud of the way everyone helped out."

Former senior air steward Alan Nicholl said: "Like the doctors, we train and train for things like this, but nothing prepares you for the real thing – especially when it’s a friend lying there not breathing."

Ron’s wife Helen added: "I would also like to thank the Club for buying the defibrillator in the first place. It showed great forethought and community spirit.

And she revealed: "The first night Ronnie sat up in bed we suggested that he took up golf, but he said “No way! Tennis is the only game for me”’.

Club Chairman Paula Hill said: "Even though we bought the machine, it is sited just outside the main gates so it’s available to the community.

"Several care homes around here have come and used it, but this is the first time it has been used on one of our members. We are incredibly proud of all those concerned."