In September 2015, Wendy Sharpe watched her 15-year-old son Connor suddenly collapse and stop breathing during a rugby league training match.
Connor had suffered a major heart attack at just fifteen years of age, completely out of the blue.
The Year 12 student doesn’t remember collapsing, nor does he remember the emergency RACQ LifeFlight Rescue flight that saved his life. But it’s a day Connor’s mother Wendy will never forget.
“You don’t realise how precious life is. We had one of the fittest kids. It is unfathomable and unbelievable,” said Wendy.
“He literally died on that football field. I thought we’d lost him.”
Wendy credits Connor’s survival to the swift medical assistance he received that terrifying day.
It began with the quick-thinking response of Connor’s coach Jason Brookes who recalled the CPR skills he had learnt at school to revive the teenager following his collapse. He kept Connor breathing until paramedics arrived and called the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter. Wendy could only watch on in horror.
Doctors now know Connor was suffering Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy or an enlarged heart muscle. There are often no symptoms, but the genetic condition can be life threatening and result in sudden and unexpected cardiac death.
Despite the shock of the diagnosis, Connor’s mother Wendy considers Connor one of the lucky ones. She is thankful RACQ LifeFlight Rescue was there for Connor that day to urgently airlift him from Toowoomba Hospital to the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital for specialist care.
“LifeFlight kept him alive, they probably used every machine they had on the chopper,” said Wendy.
“They are angels. Connor wouldn’t be here without them.”
Since his health scare, Connor’s had to give up his beloved rugby league. Under doctor’s orders he can no longer play contact sport and has instead thrown himself into music, rediscovering his love of the saxophone.
“I feel both lucky and unlucky,” Connor said.
“I have always been dedicated to my saxophone, but since the accident I now play about two to three hours a day when I can. I really want to study at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music next year and learn more,” he said.
To show gratitude to the donors and LifeFlight crew who save his life, Connor entertained guests at a private function recently at the Clive Berghofer LifeFlight Centre celebrating the 10th anniversary of LifeFlight’s Toowoomba base. Connor was happy to show off his new-found saxophone skills as his way of saying thanks.
The cheeky teenager hoped the function would bring him more opportunities to share his musical talent with Toowoomba and beyond.
“Hopefully I’ll get a few more gigs out of it,” laughed Connor.