How a pair of ‘amazing’ Charles Sturt rugby players saved Steve Hamson’s life

HEROIC EFFORT: CSU Bathurst paramedics student and first grade five-eighth Jack Keppel playing against Orange City on Saturday, just moments after performing life-saving CPR on their coach Steve Hamson. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

HEROIC EFFORT: CSU Bathurst paramedics student and first grade five-eighth Jack Keppel playing against Orange City on Saturday, just moments after performing life-saving CPR on their coach Steve Hamson. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

UNTIL the weekend, rugby union coach Steve Hamson’s knack for luck at the footy had been based largely on the bounce of a ball.

But any of his previous good fortune at Pride Park pales into insignificance when compared to falling at the feet of two paramedics students and a registered nurse moments after suffering a heart attack.

Mr Hamson was awaiting the kick off to Saturday’s first grade fixture between his own Orange City Lions and Charles Sturt University (CSU) Bathurst when he collapsed to the ground.

Through nothing more than a quirk of the Central West Rugby Union draw, CSU students Andrew Fraser and Jack Keppel were just metres away.

The pair were at Pride Park to play for CSU, but all thoughts of football vanished when they were alerted to Mr Hamson’s predicament and their medical emergency training kicked in.

MIRACLE STORY: Orange City Lions first grade coach Steve Hamson.

MIRACLE STORY: Orange City Lions first grade coach Steve Hamson.

They led an effort to commence CPR and the use of a defibrillator which, with the assistance of registered nurse Wendy Baker and others, kept Mr Hamson alive until ambulance officers arrived on scene about 15 minutes later.

Had they not done so, the two-time premiership-winning coach’s chances of survival were remote.

Mr Hamson was transported to Orange hospital. He was sedated on Saturday night and had four stents placed to open his arteries and restore blood flow.

He underwent testing on Sunday morning and according to the Orange City Facebook page there were “signs positive for recovery” after the surgery, although he is not out of the woods yet and will likely remain under observation for the next week.

Mr Fraser, a third-year paramedics student who had just walked off the field after playing in a colts game Mr Hamson had refereed, said he and Mr Keppel had simply followed the lessons learned in the classroom.

“The first I knew of any issue was when Jack yelled out to me to give him a hand,” he said.

“We did a quick survey, just like we would do in class. He was unresponsive and had no pulse.

“It was sort of second nature from there, trying to work as a team like we do at uni.”

Mr Fraser described the willingness of those nearby to pitch in as “incredible”.

“There was a bloke already there with the defibrillator putting the pads on, and a young nurse who was looking after his airways,” he said.

Mr Keppel, who was preparing for the approaching first grade game when the emergency started, agreed it was a team effort.

“There were heaps of people helping and chipping in, which was awesome,” he said.

“I don’t know their names but they were just amazing.”

When interviewed on Sunday both Mr Fraser and Mr Keppel were at pains to emphasise the importance of the help provided by others, but Sandy Blunt, who assisted in the treatment at the scene, said the “amazing” young men were the ones responsible for saving Mr Hamson’s life.

“They took control and guided and directed the rest of us,” Mrs Blunt explained.

“They were very calm and assured.

“I don’t think there could have been a good outcome had they not been there.”

The two CSU boys behaved so professionally, they were just unbelievable. - Orange City president Steve Stone

Orange City president Steve Stone said the club, in conjunction with Waratah Sports Club, had installed the defibrillator “a couple of years ago”, a move which he described as now having “saved one life”.

He added his praise and gratitude to the students and their helpers.

“The two CSU boys behaved so professionally, they were just unbelievable,” Mr Stone said.

“There were plenty of people from Orange City helping too, so it was a real team effort.”

Mr Stone said the decision to play the first grade fixture – which Orange City won 31-25 – was not an easy one.

“We left it up to the players to decide if they wanted to play,” he said.

“They knew Steve would have wanted them to play and they did him proud.”

The incident is not the first time CSU’s rugby-playing paramedics students have found themselves at the right place at the right time.

In August last year four Bathurst students travelling to a game came to the aid of a group involved in a single-vehicle crash on the Mitchell Highway near Molong.

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