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Off-duty A&E doctor who helped save stricken Newcastle fan 'doesn't want people to call me a hero'

·9-min read
Off-duty A&E doctor who helped save stricken Newcastle fan 'doesn't want people to call me a hero' - GETTY IMAGES
Off-duty A&E doctor who helped save stricken Newcastle fan 'doesn't want people to call me a hero' - GETTY IMAGES

An off-duty A&E doctor has described the dramatic moments he saved a fan suffering cardiac arrest midway through Newcastle's 3-2 defeat to Tottenham.

Tom Prichard, of North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, rushed from his own seat in St James' Park with his friend to help give the elderly man CPR and administer a defibrillator.

After the stricken supporter was revived, thousands in the Gallowgate End subsequently chanted "hero" at Prichard, a season-ticket holder of 14 years. Given his lifelong support for the club, the doctor admitted he would remember the crowd chanting towards him as "one of the best moments of my life".

However, he told Telegraph Sport: "I don't want people to call me a hero - that's strange, as it was a team effort. But what I do want to get out of this is for the general public to understand that early CPR and early defibrillation is what saved this man's life.

"It was the same for Christian Eriksen at the Euros. If we can try and raise public awareness of that, by whatever means possible, that would be great."

The match had been stopped shortly before half time after Tottenham defender Sergio Reguilon raised the alarm as Spurs were due to take a corner. Reguilon ran to alert referee Andre Marriner, with fans waving frantically, calling for action.

Eric Dier then urged the staff to run over with a defibrillator to the scene where Dr Prichard and his friend, Matty, took charge of CPR, which had been started by a woman who had been sitting nearer to him. It appeared St John's Ambulance volunteers had already been strapping another defibrillator to the man's chest.

Dr Prichard explained how it took two "shocks" to eventually revive the man, who has been named only as "George". "It all happened so quickly," Prichard said.

"I was sitting in the Gallowgate End and I could see that there was something going on with the fans in about the 40th minute. Initially I just kept my eye on things, then I thought I had better head over and see what's going on. I jumped over the barrier and ran over and then took over, essentially."

George was "lying on the chairs, with no pulse", the doctor explained. "St John's had done a fantastic job - they had already arrived and put the pads on," he added.

"They had already started helping this guy so when I got there, I took over CPR and my colleague who sits next to me actually then came in to help as well. We needed the machine to shock him. The first shock didn't work so we carried on CPR.

"He then ended up getting another shock and we got him back around, which was great. And by that point, an intensive care doctor and a cardiologist turned up. With myself and all of St John's there, this guy was in the right place at the right time. And essentially once we got the pulse, we could stretcher him down."

The doctor was completely unaware that the game had been stopped amid the drama. "My back was to the pitch, and I had no idea that play had stopped," he added.

"I was confused as to why it was still the first half. When I was walking back to my seat, it was a very strange feeling as all these fans were shouting 'hero' at me.

"It was a little bit overwhelming, but a great feeling nonetheless to have your own home supporters chanting that at you. It felt great, but really it was a complete team effort.

"I'm not going to take anything away from anyone else. I could not have done it without the other members of the team. So to have everyone else there was just brilliant. It was the right place at the right time for this gentleman."

With the patient now in hospital and stable, Prichard stressed "early CPR, early chest compressions and early defibrillation is what saved this man's life".

"So, if anyone in the public were to see this happen again... chest compressions, CPR is what needs to happen. And trying to get a defibrillator there as soon as possible."

An emotional David Ginola, watching on as a Sky Sports analyst, also described having "very weird" memories of his own heart attack in 2016 after Newcastle's first game under Saudi ownership was temporarily halted.

Two defibrillators were installed at the stadium six years ago by the volunteer group NE Defib. "Incredible to see one safeguarding today," the organisation said.

One of Newcastle's new directors, Mehrdad Ghodoussi, described Dr Prichard as the "real hero of the day" as he confirmed the fan, named so far only as George, is "doing well" in hospital.

"Thank you Dr Prichard," Ghodoussi, the husband of Amanda Staveley, tweeted. "Thankfully George is now in a stable condition and doing well. I’m sure the whole country is sending him positive vibes and he’ll be back in St James' Park in no time at all."

The family of the stricken fan later said he was now "awake and alert" in hospital. Paul Smith identified himself on Twitter as George's son. "The fan is my father," he wrote in response to a post by Alan Shearer praising Dr Prichard.

"He is awake and alert in hospital, but has no memory of being at the game today. I wish to thank every single person who helped him - it could have been a totally different outcome without them."

Julie Gillon, chief executive of North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said Dr Prichard "is a great example of the compassion and commitment NHS colleagues demonstrate every day".

"This sad incident also brings into light the need for as many people as possible to take up training in first aid and basic life support," she added. "Hopefully, you will never need to save a life but it’s always useful to have that knowledge just in case."

Spurs praise urgent responses of Reguilon and Dier after fan collapses

By Tom Morgan

Tottenham Hotspur's Eric Dier gets help during a medical emergency in the stands - Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith
Tottenham Hotspur's Eric Dier gets help during a medical emergency in the stands - Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

Sergio Reguilon and Eric Dier were singled out for their quick-thinking actions in helping save a fan suffering apparent cardiac arrest during Tottenham's 3-2 win at Newcastle.

Reguilon had been first to spot the man collapsed in the stands and promptly told Andre Marriner to stop the game. Dier, meanwhile, had immediately sprinted with Newcastle captain Jamaal Lascelles to the touchline to tell staff to rush over to the man with a defibrillator.

Nuno Espírito Santo, the Tottenham manager, led tributes to his players' "instinctive" response, just five months after former Spurs player Christian Eriksen collapsed on the pitch for Denmark at Euro 2020.

"Credit to them, and credit for the referee because he made the right decision in stopping the game," he said. "There's nothing more important than human life."

An emotional David Ginola, watching on as Sky Sports analysts, also described having "very weird" memories of his own heart attack in 2016 after Newcastle's first game under Saudi ownership was temporarily halted.

"It's obviously a very strange experience," Ginola said as the spectator was worked on by paramedics prior to being rushed to hospital.

A member of medical staff from Newcastle United is seen passing a defibrillator to a steward during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur - Stu Forster/Getty Images
A member of medical staff from Newcastle United is seen passing a defibrillator to a steward during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur - Stu Forster/Getty Images

The match was stopped shortly before half time after Reguilon had been the first player to raise the alarm as Tottenham were due to take a corner, Reguilon ran to alert referee Andre Marriner, while fans waved frantically, calling for action.

"I looked at the fans and they said 'stop stop'," Reguilon explained. "I look closer and I see the guy is lying down - it's no good, so please stop the game. Everything I think is okay now. That's more important."

Lascelles and Dier then ran to their dugouts, with the Spurs defender successfully getting staff to sprint over with a defibrillator.

"I think three points is always a moment of happiness but for me more important is the guy (the supporter who received medical treatment), they are telling me he is OK and stable," Reguilon added.

"I saw the fans waving and I saw a guy lying down. I saw something wrong had happened. I looked at the gaffer and he stopped the match. I think now everything is OK and 100 per cent happiness."

Harry Kane, who was among the scorers, said his first thoughts post-match were with the stricken fan "First and foremost we want to say best wishes to the guy in the stands," he said.

"It was not a good sight to see. It was devastating to see. It wasn’t nice for the fans to see that. But we hear, he is stable so we are thankful."

The defibrillator used in the emergency was said to have been installed six years ago by a charity. "Around six years ago we placed two defibrillators in St James' Park," said the volunteer group NE Defib. "Incredible to see one safeguarding today."

The club released a statement on Saturday evening following the incident: "Newcastle United can confirm that a supporter who required emergency medical treatment during the club's Premier League fixture with Tottenham Hotspur at St James' Park on Sunday is stable and responsive in hospital.

"The match was temporarily suspended during the incident, which occurred during the first half, and the supporter was awake and able to converse upon being transported to hospital.

"The club would like to thank fans for their swift actions in raising the alarm and praise those who provided immediate chest compressions, as well as thanking the on-site medical professionals who swiftly administered emergency treatment using a defibrillator located close to the incident.

"Newcastle United club doctor, Dr Paul Catterson, also attended the incident to offer additional support with an additional defibrillator.

"Our best wishes go to the supporter and their loved ones and we hope for a swift and full recovery."

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