Ex-Wigan, Sunderland and Bradford striker opens up on moment that changed his life and has message to others

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“For my heart to stop for four-and-a-half minutes is really scary.”

As an elite athlete Charlie Wyke didn’t expect it to happen to him. But back in November 2021, the then Wigan striker suffered a cardiac arrest during training and his heart stopped beating for four minutes.

His life was saved thanks to immediate action by his manager Leam Richardson who performed CPR until club doctor Jonathan Tobin took over. 

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“The weeks leading up to the incident were a rough few weeks - I felt like I knew something was wrong and then the day of the incident I just remember walking over to you (Richardson) and I was just going to say ‘I don’t feel well’ and then the next thing I know I’m on the floor receiving CPR,” Wyke recalls.

Charlie Wyke in action for Wigan back in 2023Charlie Wyke in action for Wigan back in 2023
Charlie Wyke in action for Wigan back in 2023 | Getty Images

“For my heart to stop for four-and-a-half minutes is really scary. I’m just thankful everyone was there to help me that day.” 

The pair, recently reunited at Rotherham, have come together as part of the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and Sky Bet ‘Every Minute Matters’ campaign, aiming to recruit 270,000 people - the equivalent of three Wembley’s – to learn CPR over the next 12 months. 

Speaking in a video produced at Wembley to support the initiative, Richardson takes up the story. 

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“I think you just jump into autopilot,” he said. “It’s a little bit of an out of body experience to be honest. 

“I remember somebody trying to pull me off and I was like shrugging them off and I continued CPR and I turned around and it was the doc and I thought ‘he’s probably a bit more qualified than I am to come and get involved’ but there were a lot of people that day who did some amazing things.”

Former Wigan and Rotherham boss Leam Richardson Former Wigan and Rotherham boss Leam Richardson
Former Wigan and Rotherham boss Leam Richardson | Getty Images

Dr Tobin had also helped save the life of Fabrice Muamba on the pitch in 2012 when the Bolton midfielder collapsed against Tottenham. 

Wyke has joined a line-up of footballers impacted by life-threatening heart conditions dubbed the ‘Re-Starting 11’. The one-off team includes former international stars Graeme Souness, David Ginola, Glenn Hoddle and current Luton Town captain Tom Lockyer. 

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“I think it’s absolutely key that everybody learns CPR. It only takes 15 minutes to learn online,” Wyke said. “It's so important because you never know when you might need it. It saved my life.” 

There are more than 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the UK each year, equating to at least five every 90 minutes. Tragically, less than one in 10 people survive, often because those around them lack the skills or confidence to perform CPR.

Richardson said: “From the experience I had with Charlie, I know that learning CPR is paramount. I was so thankful I knew how to administer CPR on that day in 2021, alongside the help of Dr Tobin and the team. Charlie’s story had a happy ending and it’s great to see him back playing but that’s only possible thanks to CPR. I’d encourage everyone to take the time to learn it - it’s a vital skill and never know you might just help save someone’s life.”

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