A MEDICAL student from Exeter has been hailed a hero after saving the life of an opponent on the rugby pitch.
Luke McLennan, 22, a fifth-year student at the Peninsula Medical School in the city, started training as a doctor after leaving Exeter School.
Luke was making his debut for Withycombe RFC on Sunday in a friendly at Paignton, where the drama unfolded shortly after he came on as a replacement.
Paignton player Adam Wyatt collapsed during the match, and Luke realised something was seriously wrong.
Within seconds his medical training kicked in and he took charge of the situation until paramedics arrived.
Luke administered CPR to keep Adam going until the ambulance crew got to the scene with a defibrillator to shock him back to life.
Adam is now recovering in Torbay Hospital where he is due to have surgery on a blocked coronary artery.
Luke, who comes from Newton St Cyres and has just started working at the North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple, said: "When I got to him he was being looked at by the physio and one of the Paignton players, who works in the health service. The first thought was he had suffered some sort of seizure or stroke, then I realised his eyes were rolling around in his head and he was breathing very heavily.
"We rolled Adam on his back, it didn't feel as if there was a pulse and that is when I got to work with the compressions on his chest.
"I kept that going for around 10 minutes until the ambulance crew arrived. They had the equipment to administer shocks and must have given him four or five.
"At that point I let them take over, having done all I could. I wasn't too optimistic at the time as he had been 'dead' for around 20 minutes.
"The odds on surviving a cardiac arrest outside a hospital are very, very low. When the chairman of Paignton RFC rang me on Sunday night to say Adam was sitting up in his hospital bed, it would not have been the outcome I would have expected at all. The chances of that would be lower than one per cent."
Adam's wife Camilla said her husband of 24 years owed his life to McLennan.
"Adam and I both work in the health service and you become used to seeing people's lives being saved," she said. "It is a bit different when it happens to one of your own.
"My husband was dead for 20 minutes. By the end of the same day he was sitting up in his hospital bed chatting to people. The doctors at Torbay say he has only suffered a small amount of damage and will be okay. We are so grateful to everyone involved – the doctor, the paramedics, the staff at Torbay Hospital and Adam's teammates – for saving Adam's life. I have not had the chance to speak to Dr McLennan yet, but I hope to speak to him soon and tell him how grateful we all are." Luke hopes to take up a junior doctor's post later this year. "I am hoping to pursue a career in emergency medicine, working in A&E, so this was quite a test to see if I could stay calm," he said.