Heroes bring Sunday Mail B2B runner back to life

 

It's a weird feeling coming back from the dead.

Paul Reball is still struggling to get his head around the fact that he clinically died during the Sunday Mail's Bridge to Brisbane run. The fit 59-year-old runner fell to the ground with a massive heart attack. Out of the blue three deadly valve blockages stopped him in his tracks 3km into the 10km run.

Paul Reball running in the Bridge to Brisbane.
Paul Reball running in the Bridge to Brisbane.

"But I had an angel on my shoulder. Literally, there was an emergency doctor running right behind me with his son. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for that man. You could say the Bridge to Brisbane saved my life. If the attack had struck when I was out running on my own that would have been the end for me. I had been healthy and well and had no hint of what was coming" Mr Reball, from Morayfield, told The Sunday Mail.

The "angel" was Jeff Hooper, from the Gold Coast University Hospital and LifeFlight. Mr Reball had no pulse when Dr Hooper stopped his race to help. The medic gave mouth to mouth and chest compressions but he was not responding. Then course paramedic Maddi Leighton-Jones arrived with a defibrillator and oxygen minutes later.

She was shocked at what was waiting for her at 7am on this sunny Sunday morning that was full of fun, colour and life as thousands took part in the annual race.

"I received radio contact that a runner had collapsed. I thought that they had probably fainted or fallen over but I was quickly wakened up that morning by the seriousness of the situation. The doctor was furiously working on the patient when I got there and to be honest if it wasn't for him it would have been a struggle to revive Mr Reball," she said.

Jeff Reball had previously finished the Bridge to Brisbane in 55 minutes. Picture: Steve Pohlner
Jeff Reball had previously finished the Bridge to Brisbane in 55 minutes. Picture: Steve Pohlner

The medic managed to bring Mr Reball back to life using the defibrillator paddles and an ambulance arrived and rushed him to hospital where he had a triple bypass.

"It's been an emotional time. I can't help asking myself why me, why have I been given a second chance? The experience has had a deep impact on me. I was heading towards 60 feeling fit and healthy. I was a regular runner, a healthy weight, ate well. I started the race at a good pace and felt okay. Then around the Treasury Casino area my legs started to feel funny, like the blood was draining from them. I didn't have any chest pains or the things you would expect. I have no recollection of anything after hitting the ground,' he said.

This week the massage therapist met his life savers for the first time since the August 25 race.

"To tell you the truth I didn't know what they looked like until that meeting. It was so emotional for me. Thanks to their prompt action my heart suffered no real damage. My heart is like brand new and I am working on getting back into running," Mr Reball said.

This was the third time Mr Reball had entered the Bridge to Brisbane race which he would normally finish in 55 mins.

"I was looking forward to the day. I stay in the city the night before so I can get up early to be at the start line. Luckily there was no one waiting for me at the finish line," he said.

Dr Hooper was running with his son to raise money for the charity Brain Child.

Paul Reball (in the middle) with Dr Jeff Hooper and paramedic Madison Leighton-Jones, who saved his life when he had a heart attack at the Bridge to Brisbane. Picture: Adam Head
Paul Reball (in the middle) with Dr Jeff Hooper and paramedic Madison Leighton-Jones, who saved his life when he had a heart attack at the Bridge to Brisbane. Picture: Adam Head

"I was in off duty mode just enjoying the race when I saw the commotion up ahead. I couldn't feel Paul's pulse and tried to do what I could. There were about four different medics who stopped with Paul that day. It doesn't always happen that this kind of thing has a happy ending so it was wonderful to meet with Paul this week and see him doing so well," Dr Hooper said.

"After the ambulance arrived I got back into the race and had my daughter calling me from the finish line to tell me she had beaten me," Dr Hooper said.

Paramedic Ms Leighton-Jones says it is so important for people to learn CPR techniques. She volunteers to teach CPR to the community.

"The doctors at the hospital told me my chance of survival was just two per cent. That's very confronting but thanks to my race angels here I am, alive and well," Mr Reball said.