'It was fight or flight': Desperate bid to save cricketer’s life recalled

OBC senior captain and opening batsman David Wakefield. Photo: Supplied
OBC senior captain and opening batsman David Wakefield. Photo: Supplied
A relieved Christchurch cricket club administrator has spoken for the first time about the desperate effort made by teammates and paramedics to save the life of one of his players.

David Wakefield. Photo: Geoff Sloan
David Wakefield. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Old Boys Collegians’ senior team captain David Wakefield is recovering in hospital after the near death experience last month.

Club president Paul Knight told The Star of the harrowing minutes spent bringing Wakefield back from the brink at Elmwood Park after he suffered a major cardiac arrest during fitness drills.

"When I turned up it was just so stark. It was the true fight or flight," Knight said.

"Guys couldn’t watch it, it was just a weird sort of time, everyone was so spaced out.

"There were 25 to 40 people just sort of sitting there watching him die. He was shirtless in front of us and they were just pumping away on him.”

Wakefield, 26, was doing shuttle runs when he collapsed on a damp March 11 evening.

The team thought he was taking the mick, until they reached his side.

“When they got to him they realised something was amiss and they jumped into it,” said Knight.

Paul Knight. Photo: Supplied
Paul Knight. Photo: Supplied
A coach and two players rendered initial assistance before the first paramedic arrived six minutes after the emergency call was made.

“Thankfully two of them are school teachers so they had the recent training. They had the peace of mind to go through the correct procedure.”

The trio, said Knight, prefer to keep a low public profile.

“They’re a little bit over being called heroes and stuff. They’re starting to get more grumpy with it,” he explained.

Wakefield’s parents, Steve and Helen, also paid tribute to the exemplary medical care their son received.

Once admitted to Christchurch Hospital, Wakefield spent 21 days in the intensive care unit, followed by a fortnight in the cardiology ward for surgery to implant a defibrillator.

“We have been super-impressed with the wonderful care that he has received, which has enabled him to make a miraculous recovery,” they wrote in a letter published in The Press.

“David has more hard work to achieve a full recovery, but we are confident with excellent care from CDHB staff that is achievable.”

Their gratitude extended to the club, through the purchase of a defibrillator to be close at hand in the pavilion.

United States-born Wakefield, who represented the US at Twenty20 level in 2018, is continuing his recovery in the brain injury rehabilitation unit at Burwood Hospital.

“He’s a tenacious little bugger, he never backs away from a fight, you can sort of see that in his recovery,” Knight said.

“Since he’s come out of the coma, everything has been incremental in terms of improvement. He’s on the slow build back to a hundred (per cent).”

There is no indication when the opening batsman will return to the middle, though he has been out and about.

“He gets allowed out maybe once a week,” Knight said.

“His girlfriend (Mollie Barrell) graduated university last weekend, he was there with all the family.”

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter