“The fact Christian survived was not a miracle, as the headlines put it. It was having people on hand who knew what to do”
Martin Johnson was firing up his barbecue at home when Christian Eriksen collapsed during Euro 2020.
Denmark’s game with Finland was on indoors and a friend rushed into the garden to bring the rugby legend the shock news.
“My first thought was ‘that will be his heart’,” recalled Johnson. “My second was ‘Awful though it is, he could not be in a better place’.”
England’s World Cup-winning captain immediately thought back to 2012 and how the 14-year-old son of another pal had been out running when he suffered a sudden cardiac arrest.
“Joe Humphries went for a run and never came back,” he said. “Matter of yards from home, no symptoms, bang. We don’t know how long he was on the floor.
“In Christian’s case there was a fully trained medical team on hand and a team mate who knew what to do.
“These things unfortunately happen. It’s not a freak occurrence. Twelve people under the age of 35 die every week of sudden cardiac arrest.
“But the fact Christian survived was not a miracle, as the headlines put it. It was having people on hand who knew what to do.”
Which brings Johnson to the point of our conversation. This is Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS) Awareness Week and the ninth anniversary of Joe’s death.
“The fact is that if effective action is taken within the first minute it can treble chances of survival,” said Johnson, patron of the Memorial Trust set up in Joe’s name.
“In Christian’s case the defibrillator was there, he was instantly seen, they got him back with the first shock I believe. It wasn’t a miracle because it is preventable.
“People need to know that and what to do. We’re trying to raise awareness, get CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) training out there and up the provision of defibrillators.”
Campaigning has already led to CPR being added to the national curriculum, but Johnson won’t rest because 60,000 people have a sudden cardiac arrest outside of hospital every year.
“The answer is for all of us to spare 10 minutes to learn CPR,” he said. “I did and not long after I was in a situation where I needed it.
“Thank god I knew what to do because the thought of being unable to do anything other than look at my watch and wait for an ambulance is unimaginable.”
UK Coaching offers a free eLearning course to provide the knowledge and confidence to respond quickly and appropriately in the event of sudden cardiac arrest. The toolkit, funded by Sport England, has been created by UK Coaching, Resuscitation Council UK, St John Ambulance and the Joe Humphries Memorial Trust. The course is available at www.ukcoaching.org/sca