New defibrillator saves life of veteran football player

Quick-thinking actions and a mobile defibrillator have saved the life of a football player, following a cardiac arrest at a veterans football tournament.

During the summer, players for Barry Town Veterans Football Club – which provides a place for men aged 40 and over to improve their fitness, mental health and to be part of a team – attended the annual Milton over 60s tournament held in Oxfordshire, taking part in the Wales over 60s team. With them they took a mobile defibrillator, recently donated by the nearby Tarmac Aberthaw Cement Plant, in Barry, to have pitch side in the event of an emergency.

But a group match played at the tournament in late August was far from a typical kickabout when Kevin Bovington, a player from an opposing team Oxfordshire County, suffered a heart attack mid-game.

Kevin credits the defibrillator and the actions of Paul Averies, a member of the Barry Town team who successfully used the equipment, for saving his life. In his own words, the cardiac arrest occurred without warning – with Kevin enjoying regular exercise, including a 30-mile cycle ride the week before the incident, and suffering from no health concerns.

He said: “On the day, all I remember is waking up in the ambulance where it was explained what had just taken place. I was dazed and bemused and it was difficult to believe what has just happened.

“I was taken to the local hospital where I had a stent fitted due to a narrowing of the artery and a blockage. And then a further stent two days later. I was told by medics that the quick use of a defibrillator has a huge impact on the quality of life you have next. In my case because the defib was mobile and used very quickly, it has had virtually no long-term scarring on the heart.”

Stuart Escott, manager of Tarmac’s Aberthaw Cement Plant, said: “Defibrillators are absolutely vital community resources, so when we donated it to Barry Town Veterans FC earlier this year, we knew how important it was and that it could potentially save a player’s life – yet we hoped that it would never be needed.

“A cardiac arrest can happen at literally any moment and we’d like to say a big well done to Paul for his swift reaction on the day and for calmly putting the defibrillator into action. Our best wishes are also with Kevin and it’s great to hear he is doing well.”

Alun Huish, secretary for Barry Town Veterans Football Club and chairman for Wales Veterans Football Association, said: “Thankfully, alert Wales Veterans’ FA Committee member and Barry Town Veterans’ FC player, Paul, dashed to the scene where he activated the mobile defibrillator and Kevin regained consciousness. We are thankful that Kevin is now on the road to a full recovery.

“On behalf of Barry Town Veterans FC and the Wales Veterans’ Football Association, I would, once again, like to thank Aberthaw-Tarmac for their generosity.”

Following a rehabilitation programme, Kevin is getting back to full fitness – having even played his first football match since the incident. He added: “I was at the recent match and I’m asking everyone constantly about where the defib is… It has become very much front and centre for me.

“It’s also not just about having a defibrillator on hand but making sure there are people, like Paul in my case, who are ready and willing, trained and prepared to use it and ultimately save lives.

“As the veterans football scene grows and even more people aged 40,50,60 plus are keen to keep fit, with that comes more risk a need to protect people. I’d urge all club operators, and sports facilities to ‘think defib’ and ensure defibrillators are present at every sporting event.”

Picture caption 1: L-R are Kevin Bovington, Stuart Escott and Paul Averies.