Off-duty medical professionals save tennis player’s life

16 October 2023

Derek Hemmingfield

Derek Hemmingfield

Tennis player Derek Hemmingfield was in the right place at the right time with the right people when he suffered a cardiac arrest while taking part in one of his favourite sports.

Seventy-five-year-old Derek was playing doubles with friend Andrew Farkas at St Andrew’s Tennis Club in Graham Road, Sheffield, when he collapsed.

Andrew, a consultant gynaecologist at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, immediately recognised Derek was in cardiac arrest and started CPR with the help of off-duty nurse Marjorie Skidmore. The club defibrillator, which was installed just four months earlier, was also retrieved but not needed.

They managed to get him breathing again by the time the ambulance arrived about 10 minutes later and he was taken to Northern General Hospital in Sheffield where he had surgery to replace his aortic valve.

Derek, a retired Sheffield chartered accountant, who lives in Hope, Derbyshire, said: “I believe in miracles and there were miracles in play that day. The fact that I was at the tennis club with people who knew what to do and I was well looked after by ambulance and hospital staff meant that I was given a second chance and I am incredibly grateful.

“We were all able to enjoy our club’s 100th anniversary together in the summer and I was very happy to be there - one year on from my cardiac arrest.”

Mr Farkas said it was the first time he had done CPR in an out-of-hospital environment.

“Early recognition of the fact that he was in cardiac arrest and prompt CPR was key,” he added. “I really thought we were going to lose him, so it was such a relief when we got a pulse. When the ambulance arrived, he was talking to us.

“I got to play tennis with Derek again the other week; it was very gratifying to see him doing so well.”

Marjorie, a parish nurse at St Matthew’s Church, Carver Street, Sheffield, recalled: “Someone shouted ‘man down’ so I ran onto the court unsure of what to expect. Andrew and I couldn’t find a pulse. Knowing Derek was in grave danger CPR was started. As a parish nurse we’re not usually called upon to administer CPR so I owe a lot to the defibrillator training we had received at the tennis club a few weeks earlier from Yorkshire Ambulance Service; knowing what needed to be done and having the confidence in my ability. I do believe God placed Derek in the right place that day, and I shall always be thankful we were there to help at that critical moment.”