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Looking forward to living life in the Premier League thanks to Madejski Stadium first aiders

 Royston Nobes, Reading FC fan who collapsed at the Madejski Stadium

A lifelong Reading FC fan who collapsed at the Madejski Stadium in February survived to see the Royals gain promotion to the Premier League and says he owes it all to the first aiders who saved his life.

Royston Nobes, 67, lives in Wallingford, Oxfordshire but opted to support Reading over Oxford United after being taken to a game at Elm Park when he was just ten years old. On the evening of 17 February, less than 24 hours before the football world was rocked by the collapse of Bolton player Fabrice Muamba, Royston and his son Andy arrived at the stadium ready for the match against Burnley. Sadly neither of them even got to see the game kick off as Royston suffered a heart attack as he went through the turnstiles and collapsed on the concourse amid the crowds of fellow supporters.

Royston recalls; ‘My son’s girlfriend had come along to the match with us and I let them both go through the turnstile before me in case she had problems putting her ticket in the machine as sometimes happens. I remember going through behind them and thinking about making my way to my seat in the North stand but after that I don’t recall a thing.’

First aiders quick to react

Luckily for Royston, the person who followed him through the turnstile was an off-duty nurse who could see that Royston had stopped breathing and instantly began chest compressions to keep the oxygen flowing around his body. Within minutes a team of first aiders and doctors from St John Ambulance and the British Red Cross who were at the stadium as part of the regular first aid team, arrived on the scene with a defibrillator which they used to shock Royston’s heart back into a normal rhythm. Soon after he was breathing again and was taken to the Royal Berkshire Hospital by ambulance.

Son Andy said; ‘I thought Dad was right behind me but when I looked round I couldn’t see him then I realised he was on the floor and it looked like someone was giving him CPR. I could tell straight away from the people he had around him that he was in the best hands and so I stood and watched on hoping he was going to be ok.’

After a brief spell in the Royal Berkshire Hospital Royston was transferred to the John Radcliffe in Oxford where he underwent a double bypass and was fitted with an ICD which will help to keep his heart in a steady rhythm in future. After five weeks he was allowed to return home and is making good progress. He says; ‘I would never have thought that a football ground would be the best place to have a heart attack but it turned out to be that way for me as there were so many people around me who knew what to do and could help. I live on my own so if I’d collapsed in the house there would have been no one else there. I can honestly say that first aid saved my life.’ Royston returned to the Madejski Stadium for the first time on 21 April to see Reading’s last home game of the season against Crystal Palace and is looking forward to life in the Premier League.

Thanks expressed

On 27 April Royston was reunited with St John Ambulance volunteer Paul Robertson who oversees medical services for the crowds at the Madejski Stadium allowing him to say a personal thank you.

Paul said; ‘Royston was incredibly lucky that the person who saw him collapse was a nurse who was able to give him first aid within seconds of him having the heart attack. What she did coupled with the first aiders arriving so quickly with the defibrillator most certainly saved him. First aiders at events such as football matches are often the difference between a life lost and life saved and what happened to Royston is a great example of that.’

Ray Booth has been Stadium Manager at Madejski Stadium since opening in 1998 and throughout that time has always used St John Ambulance to provide first aid staff as the backbone of the medical support. He said; ‘It was an amazing team effort from the time Royston collapsed through to his treatment at the hospital and all of us involved are delighted to know that Royston is recovering steadily.’ The football club sent Royston a card and home shirt signed by all the players as a get well soon gesture.