A month after a heart attack during a hockey game, Tamworth’s Mark Hooper is back on the field and scoring goals — and very happy to be there. He will never forget what started as a typical Saturday afternoon four weeks ago.
The match was not going well, but a pep talk from the coach at half-time had everyone keen to get back on and turn a 2-0 deficit into a win. It worked and the team was 4-2 ahead when Mr Hooper was subbed off. Seconds later, in the sideline dugout, Mr Hooper recalls reaching for a drink and instead, hitting the ground.
The 39-year-old said he had no way to describe the incredible amount of luck that was with him that day. Not only were there four people close at hand to begin CPR immediately, but the hockey club owned a defibrillator.
“The stars aligned, that’s all I can say,” Mr Hooper said.
The Tamworth Hockey Association purchased the life-saving equipment 15 months ago.
“To be honest, we hoped and thought we would never have to use it,” association president Mark O’Connor said. “It was an amazing, awful experience but a great outcome in the end, and we can definitely support the need for defibrillators in all sporting organisations.”
Amazingly, in just a month Mr Hooper — affectionately known as “Hollywood” — was back on the field. “He returned to the game on the weekend and actually scored a goal, so it’s a tremendous experience for a lot of people at hockey it was just a great result all round,” Mr O’Connor said. Mr Hooper said it had been good to be back on the field. But he said recovery from the heart attack had only been half the battle.
“When you have something like this happen, it knocks the wind out of your sails. Your confidence level goes down to zero,” he said. Mr Hooper is undertaking rehabilitation twice a week, but he said there was more to surviving than just a physical recovery — he now faced new fears. “Just little thinks like going to sleep is my biggest one — making sure you wake up,” he said.
Heart attack catalyst for new campaign
Another person at the hockey field that fateful day was James Hindmarsh, president of a local Rotary Club. Witnessing firsthand the value of a defibrillator machine, Mr Hindmarsh has instigated a new campaign with the slogan Donate a Battery — Jumpstart a Heart.
He said money raised through the project would go towards purchasing more machines for sporting clubs in Tamworth. He thought there was a case for the machines to be mandatory.
“If more clubs and associations have these defibrillators, at least that increases the chances of more people surviving heart attacks,” Mr Hindmarsh said.
The machines could also limit damage to the heart itself. “Every time you have a heart attack you lose muscle tissue, but because there was a defibrillator on hand I have no heart muscle damage,” Mr Hooper said.
While the medical evidence has put the cause of his heart attack down to cholesterol, he said it could happen to anyone. Mr Hooper was conscious when the medical team at the Tamworth Base Hospital put the stent in to clear his blocked artery. “You can actually see the heart, the vessels and the blockage,” he said. “It’s very daunting and at the same time very relieving to know that you’ve watched what caused the problem be unblocked.”