Quick-thinking first aiders potentially saved life of judoka on mat

A police officer who suffered a heart attack following a judo session, has praised his coach and club welfare officer for their rapid first aid response, saying “if it were not for their actions I could have died on the mat.”

When Rock Conybear, 49, suffered a heart attack on Saturday 21 September, following a senior judo session at Ashford Judo Club, Ian Jenkinson and his partner Pauline were able to keep him calm and conscious until the ambulance arrived.

“Judo, in more ways than one, saved my life,” he said. “If it wasn’t for the quick and decisive actions of Ian and Pauline, then the consequences could have been fatal.

“They both quickly recognised my symptoms as potentially heart related and gave me first aid, kept me calm, reassured me and continued to monitor me whilst calling the ambulance service.

“Ian and Pauline deserve recognition from the British Judo Association (BJA) for quickly assessing and recognising the potential dangers to my life, and contributing to my care in such a way that I firmly believe prevented me from possibly dying.

“I cannot thank them both enough. They do the BJA proud and for the rest of my time on this earth I will never forget what they did for me.”

At the hospital, tests revealed that Conybear had suffered a heart attack due to severe cardiovascular disease and that he also had two blocked arteries.

Later he underwent an emergency procedure at the William Harvey Hospital to unblock his right and left arteries.

Doctors said that the level of fitness he had gained from judo possibly helped to save his life, along with the quality of first aid treatment he received from Ian and Pauline before the ambulance arrived.

Now approaching his fiftieth year, Conybear was heavily involved in competitive judo during the eighties but returned to the sport as a recreational hobby after his own children took to the tatami.

“I need to keep fit for my work as a police officer,” he added. “Judo always gives me a full body workout and generally the approach to the senior sessions is very relaxed and fun.

“I really enjoy doing judo on a recreational basis and until this, I had no idea that I was so unfit or that I was harbouring this chronic cardiac condition.

“As well as Judo I also enjoy cycling and jogging as fitness activities.

“I had been working quite hard in the session, but it is not unusual for me to feel very tired afterwards.

“This time though, at the end of the session I began to feel quite unwell and experienced the most incredible chest pain.

“However, I was able to quickly realise that this was serious and called Ian over over and he and Pauline quickly recognised the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.

“I had started to panic as I felt the lights were going out, but they kept me calm and relaxed.
They diverted my thoughts by asking me questions to maintain my awareness which kept me fully-conscious.”

Conybear hopes to return to judo following his six month treatment and rehabilitation and is on the road to recovery. He said that he would advise anyone to take up judo as a sport for fitness as it has, in his view, quite literally saved his life.

Words by Donna Richardson.