Mayor's quick response saves friend

Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn
Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn
Grey Mayor Tony Kokshoorn used CPR to save the life of Kiwi rugby league legend and Grey district councillor Tony Coll after he collapsed with a heart attack in front of him last weekend.

''I'm just so happy that the past surf life-saving training was still in my head,'' Mr Kokshoorn said yesterday as he recalled the ordeal on Saturday morning, which occurred just as he and his best friend were preparing for their usual bike ride.

Mr Coll had just arrived at the mayor's house on his bike when he suddenly complained of feeling unwell, and then slumped to the ground.

Mr Kokshoorn said his CPR training of 40 years ago instinctively kicked in with adrenaline when he realised his mate was having a heart attack.

He called out to his wife, Lynne, to call an ambulance, which ''saved crucial time to get straight on to Butch''.

After checking all airways were clear, Mr Kokshoorn immediately started chest compressions - ''one, two, three, four'' to keep his friend's heart pumping blood.

Tony Coll
Tony Coll
He kept that up for at least seven minutes.

He continued as St John arrived and began to deploy a defibrillator. Greymouth Volunteer Fire Brigade members were on the scene a few minutes later and finally relieved him.

''Tony was lucky in that he had just pulled up and he and I had been talking.

''If [the heart attack] had happened on his own, he would have been in trouble.

''As soon as it happened, I knew ... it's crucial in the first five minutes to keep the blood to the brain - the No1 thing.

''It's amazing when you do something so repetitive and like surf life-saving training - it's like walking.''

Mr Kokshoorn agreed yesterday to talk about the trauma as a way to highlight how valuable it is that everyone ''once in a while'' should ponder their basic knowledge of CPR and consider how they would respond in an emergency - ''it can happen to anyone''.

Mr Kokshoorn said it was particularly crucial to set aside personal fear and act quickly.

''If there's something I can say to anyone out there who is confronted with this situation - doing nothing is not an option. No matter how ill-prepared you are, you must do something.

''To be fair, most people, as long as they know what to do, that fear factor goes and adrenaline kicks in.

''I knew straight away, even before Tony had hit the ground, I had to think fast ... It sounds terrifying but you have no choice. You've got to do it.''

Mr Kokshoorn and Mr Coll have been close mates since their youth. For many years they have regularly tramped and cycled together.

To see his fit and active friend of 50 years collapse had been alarming, ''but you've got to deal with these things as they come up''.

Mr Coll was airlifted to Christchurch Hospital within 90 minutes of collapsing, and remains in hospital.

''The service from St John and the fire brigade was magnificent - their response was brilliant.'' 

-By Brendon McMahon

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