On Saturday 7th January 2023, during the first half of a hockey match between Ipswich East Suffolk Hockey Club Men’s 2nd XI and Bury St Edmunds Hockey Club Men’s 4th XI, at Ipswich School’s Sports Centre in Rushmere, one of the umpires – Richard Pittaway – collapsed.
Richard, 59, is a well-known and much respected person in Suffolk Hockey circles. Most recently an umpire, he played the game for years and has coached hundreds of young people – including one he won’t forget.
First aid was provided to Richard on site – both via CPR and the use of the on-site defibrillator. The East of England Ambulance Service attended promptly, as well as the East Anglian Air Ambulance. Richard was stabilised by the pitch and then flown to Basildon Hospital, where he remained till Thursday afternoon. He is now home to continue his recovery.
When Richard’s wife, Jean, thanked one of the specialists at the Hospital for saving Richard’s life they advised her that “It was the people at the pitch that did that.”
At the pitch, first aid was provided to Richard by a number of people from the following clubs who were on the site at the time: Ipswich East Suffolk Hockey Club (IESHC), Bury St Edmunds Hockey Club, Colchester Hockey Club and Kesgrave Association Football Club.
The first person to provide aid was George Austin, 19, who was playing in the IES 2nd XI. George was coached by Richard when he was younger. George learnt his first aid skills while studying Childcare Level 3 at Suffolk New College. He and others continued to support Richard, with CPR and a defibrillator, until paramedics were able to take over. Coincidentally, one of the paramedics that attended is a former Ipswich East Suffolk member who has known Richard for years.
Alison Millyard (IESHC Chair) said: “We are so grateful to everyone who pitched in last weekend to support Richard and delighted with the progress he is making. It is great that we play our home games on such a good and well managed site – without the school’s defibrillator the outcome may have been tragically different. We also know, that the last week has been really tough for many of our members who witnessed events or who have known Richard for years – so we are pleased we were able to put on some drop-in counselling sessions on Saturday 14th for people who wished to get support or just have a chat.”
“We will also be putting on some training for our members on CPR and defibrillator use before the summer and we have decided to support the East Anglian Air Ambulance with the proceeds of our annual charity day that will take place in summer 2023 – as a mark of gratitude for their role in saving Richard’s life.”
Neil Scrine, general manager of Ipswich School Sports Centre, said: “We are delighted to hear that Richard is now recovering at home. We have nothing but praise for all those who assisted on site during the emergency – it was a real team effort. We wish Richard all the best with his recovery.”
The game itself was abandoned and has been rescheduled for 18th February 2023. Richard is hoping to be able to attend so he can say thanks to everyone in person.
The final words should go to Richard: “I know I have been very lucky and I am so grateful to all those that have provided me with aid and care since I collapsed – both people from the NHS and the Air Ambulance, everyone who responded so quickly and effectively at the pitch and those involved in ensuring there is a defibrillator on-site. I’m very much looking forward to thanking them.”
“Hockey has been a huge part of my life – and I’m particularly touched to have found out that someone I once coached was so central to saving my life. But I am becoming more and more aware how much of a team effort it was – and I can’t really say anything more than repeat that I am just so thankful and grateful to all – be they people I have known for years or people I have never met, who just pitched in.”