A nurse educator and specialist in resuscitation had to use his expertise and experience for real on Good Friday in front of 12,000 football supporters.
Ken Spearpoint gave life-saving resuscitation for nearly half an hour followed by further care in the “challenging environment” of a League One football match.
“The noise of the crowd and the tragic circumstances of the incident provided a significant challenge”
The incident occurred at The Den, home of Millwall Football Club, during a match against Northampton Town on 14 April.
Ken Spearpoint is part of the South London club’s match-day medical service and was called upon to help when a Millwall season ticket holder collapsed with a suspected heart attack.
Formerly, he was the clinical lead for resuscitation services at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and is currently principal lecturer in medical simulation at the University of Hertfordshire.
Mr Spearpoint told Nursing Times that the incident started “roughly half-way through the second half of play” and that his first reaction was “one of immediate concern”.
Members of St John Ambulance had radioed Mr Spearpoint’s team about a reported collapse in the upper stand and had reached the man first.
“The club would like to praise the medical staff for their outstanding work in treating the man”
His team, including another senior nurse and a student observer, then rushed to the scene after collecting an automated external defibrillator and airway management kit.
Shortly after their arrival, it became necessary to commence resuscitation, and he conducted advanced life support for about 20 minutes, said Mr Spearpoint.
It then took a further 45-50 minutes to stabilise the patient sufficiently to allow safe transfer to an ambulance and onto hospital, he added.
He said: “The football stadium environment, with the game going on behind us, the noise of the crowd and the tragic circumstances of the incident provided a significant challenge in the provision of medical care.
“It required me to draw on all my years of experience to keep focussed on the matter in hand,” he told Nursing Times.
“The utility of technical skills is one thing, but I am certain that the successful resuscitation of this patient was largely attributable to the magnificent multi-agency, multi-professional team response that delivered timely and effective clinical care,” he also noted.
He added: “The strategy that I concentrated upon in leading the immediate response team explicitly utilised a human factors approach that included the crisis resource management skills of effective communication, systematic organisational leadership and high-quality followership.”
Nurse resuscitates heart patient at London football match
The club’s match-day medical team is an accredited BASICS (British Association for Immediate Care) scheme. Its clinical lead is Professor Alison Leary, a nurse and mathematician at London South Bank University, who was also in attendance at the incident and first told Nursing Times about it.
In a statement issued on Friday, Millwall Football Club said it could confirm that “the supporter who received lengthy medical treatment in The Dockers Stand during today’s game has been taken to hospital and was breathing on departure from The Den”.
“The club would like to praise the medical staff for their outstanding work in treating the man, who is a season ticket holder,” said the statement.
“Millwall also wishes to extend that praise to fans of both clubs for their understanding, help and support in difficult circumstances,” it added.
Two crowdfunding web pages have been created in the wake of the incident – one to provide financial assistance to the patient and the other to raise funds for equipment for the match-day medical service.
Friends of the patient, named on the JustGiving page as Antony Murphy, said that, once at King’s College Hospital, he was put into an induced coma and also had undergone heart surgery to clear a clot blocking his arteries.