Saturday 24 June 2017

'Only for Rob they'd have found a corpse' - Man who collapsed during tennis match praises opponent, and now friend, for saving his life

Rob Jenkins and Dec Harkin. Photo: Douglas Lawn Tennis Club
Rob Jenkins and Dec Harkin. Photo: Douglas Lawn Tennis Club
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

A Cork man took to the national airwaves on Friday to thank his friend for saving his life after he collapsed suddenly during a tennis match.

Declan Harkin was on his way to his friend Robert Jenkins wedding when he called the Anton Savage Show on Today FM to thank Rob and wish him and fiancee Laura Wright well on their wedding day.

In August 2014, the two men had never met before but were pitted against each other in a tennis match at Douglas Lawn Tennis club when Dec collapsed.

Writing to Today FM he said, "I'm on my way to a wedding in Kinsale.  I'm alive today only because the groom saved my life two years ago when I collapsed and was a goner.

"His immediate attention and defibrillation brought me back. Rob is the hero marrying the gorgeous Laura today and if anyone deserves a shout out on their big day it's him."

Both Dec and Rob spoke to Anton about that fateful day.

Rob Jenkins and Dec Harkin. Photo: Douglas Lawn Tennis Club
Rob Jenkins and Dec Harkin. Photo: Douglas Lawn Tennis Club

"I was Dec's opponent on the day," explained Rob. "Declan fell down on his knees and I thought, 'Typical aul fella now going to try to slow down the game to a walk' but I said I'd do the gentlemanly thing and go towards the net and just ask if he was okay.

"Next thing Declan fell down on his side and his head bounced off the ground so I ran over to Declan and he had harrowing agonal breathing, non-conducive to life."

Luckily Rob works with the Cork Airport Police and Fire Service and is first responder trained and had gone through the process before.

"It was purely down to training I was able to read the signs," he said, "The tournament director, a good friend of Dec's Joe Hanley, came running on court with a defibrillator saying, 'Is this any good to you?'  I said, 'Yeah, brilliant!'"

Rob continued performing CPR and shocked Dec twice before he came around.

By this time a woman had flagged down two units of the Cork City Fire Brigade who were returning from a job in the city and had stopped at the lights down the road.

"Suddenly I had two trucks from the City Fire Brigade, a rapid response doctor, an ambulance and 13 burly fully qualified men came running through the gate to assist Declan," said Rob.

Declan regained consciousness and reveals he saw "all these weird, scared looking faces looking deathly white at me".

"I made an effort to sit up and wave goodbye and I was taken to Cork University Hospital where they gave me three stents, sent me out two days later and I'm happy out and back playing tennis and doing everything as if it never happened," he said.

"Those 12 or 13 other people, by the time they got there, only for Rob they'd have found a corpse.  Rob's immediate response was the difference between me being here talking on the phone or not."

The two men have remained firm friends since the incident.

"Rob is such a good friend, if I was on Who Wants to be a Millionaire and I had a final question I'd ring Rob.  He probably wouldn't have a clue of the answer but I'd take the opportunity to phone a friend."

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