Ron Sargent is counting his lucky stars to be alive after suffering cardiac arrest while refereeing at Te Awamutu Sports Club's junior rugby tournament at Albert Park on April 7.
The 53-year-old collapsed during the second half of a game between Te Awamutu Sports and Cambridge 11th grade teams.
Among those who rushed to his aid were physiotherapist Kathryn Ellis of Rosetown Physiotherapy, midwife Kelly Heke-Heayes of Te Awamutu and an off-duty nurse.
"When we got to Ron his breathing was really laboured," Kathryn said.
"We initially put him in the recovery position but, once he stopped breathing, laid him on his back and started CPR. Meantime, a man sprinted to the nearby Te Awamutu Sports Indoor Centre to grab the automated external defibrillator (AED) that kept Ron alive.
"Three sets of 30 compressions had been completed by the time the defibrillator arrived, advising the rescuers defibrillation was necessary, and delivered the shock needed. One more set of 30 compressions followed before he started gurgling and trying to breathe again."
Fortunately, an ambulance had been nearby at a BMX meeting at Castleton Park and was fast-tracked to Albert Park a couple of kilometres up the road.
The paramedics took over just after the trio had got Ron breathing again.
Once stabilised he was taken to Waikato Hospital. He remained in a critical condition for two days.
To get blood flowing to his heart again, he had three blood clots removed from his main artery that had collapsed, three stents inserted and an ICD defibrillator fitted capable of correcting most life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias.
Kathryn was thankful that she and her work colleague Kristin Eldridge had undergone their compulsory two-yearly refresher CPR updates in December.
She could hardly believe her eyes when Ron visited her at work on Monday, April 15 to thank her for helping save his life.
"Hearing from him how grateful he was and the fact that he has six kids makes it all a bit more real," she said.
"He was looking good and was hoping to be back refereeing at the weekend.
"You wouldn't have known he had suffered cardiac arrest only eight days ago."
Ron is endeavouring to track down all those "heroes" whose swift action had saved him.
"If it wasn't for them, my kids would be growing up without a dad," he said.
"I'm a really lucky boy. The fact a defibrillator was on site was massive.
"I was told by specialists at Waikato Hospital that without the defibrillator those who helped me at Albert Park would not have got me back."
Ron recalls getting dizzy but remembers nothing else. He said it wasn't until the following day that he became aware of what had happened to him.
"It just shows it can happen to anyone. I'm fit, don't smoke and am a light drinker these days.
"I never felt sick but did feel tired lately after work, something I just put down to my age," he said.
The defibrillator was bought by the Te Awamutu Rugby Sports & Recreation Club in 2016.
Club administrator Linda Sprangers, said it was the first time the rugby club has needed to use the machine that is stored at the Albert Park Indoor Centre.
"I'm just thankful qualified medical people were sideline and had access to the defibrillator.
"At our recent board meeting it was decided to purchase another AED to keep in the clubrooms."
Ron believes AEDs should be available at all sports clubs in New Zealand.
"This has proven that it can happen to anyone. I think all sports clubs should have them. It should be a mandatory thing. They only cost around $2800."
With every minute that defibrillation is delayed, survival can drop by as much as 10 per cent.
Te Awamutu has more than 25 defibrillators that can be used by people to treat someone undergoing cardiac arrest.
The location of AEDs around New Zealand is available at www.aedlocations.co.nz.
Any organisation or individual looking to purchase an AED can do so here.