When a day of celebration turns to a day of fear

Date published

08 Dec 2016

It’s not uncommon for players to play their heart out in a footy grand final. Nick Morton on the other hand, may have taken the adage a little too seriously.

After four weeks on the sidelines with a hamstring injury, Nick was given the all clear to hit the paddock as his AFL side, the Mackay City Hawks looked to complete the season on a high by taking out the grand final.

And that they did, with Nick leading from the front as his side's top goal scorer, the 30 year old kicking five goals in total.

But the memory of his sporting achievements was short lived, when the celebrations were winding down in the locker room and the symptoms began to take hold.

“We were all just sitting around gathering our thoughts after the initial celebrations when I told one of the guys I was just feeling awful,” Nick remembers.

"He said it was probably just the adrenaline, but I knew something wasn't quite right. I was short of breath and just didn't feel right at all.

"I thought I probably just needed to get home and have a feed and a hot shower."

Nick Morton, his wife Victoria and daughter Isabelle

When Nick, his wife Victoria and their daughter Isabelle arrived home, his concern escalated along with his symptoms, so he asked Victoria to call an ambulance.

"While I was waiting for the paramedics to arrive, I was alternating hot and cold showers to try and regulate my body temperature. Just before they showed up I started to throw up."

What Nick originally thought might just be exhaustion after a big game in 34 degree heat, was actually his body going into cardiac arrest.

When the paramedics arrived, Nick walked out to greet them, but collapsed before he could make it across the room.

Launching immediately into action, the paramedics began CPR and were required to use the defibrillator no less than eight times, according to Nick.

After a gruelling 25 minutes of trying to stabilise Nick, the paramedics transported him for treatment at the Mackay Hospital where he remained overnight.

However it was apparent to attending doctors that the Royal Flying Doctor Service would need to be called in to transport him to the Townsville Base Hospital for more specialised care.

Nick Morton

RFDS Flight Nurse, Sarah Freeman said although Nick was stable when they arrived, the process of transporting him was not entirely straight forward.

"Nick was stable throughout the retrieval, but it did take myself and the attending doctor at least two hours on the ground in Mackay to load him onto our aircraft stretcher with specialised cardiac monitoring, medication infusions and invasive ventilation assisting him to essentially breath," Sarah said.

"Throughout the transfer, I was providing reassurance to Nick's stoic and understandably concerned partner and their beautiful baby, both of whom were present when we left Mackay Hospital ICU.

"Often as a flight nurse you spend a lot of time and considerable care in preparing a patient for travelling on our aircraft and the time actually flying to the next destination without ever knowing the outcome for that patient.

"Obviously the care Nick experienced throughout his ordeal resulted in a really positive and healthy outcome, which I feel so happy to have contributed to."

Nick and his daughter Isabelle

Nick said he could not be more grateful to the paramedics and the Flying Doctor crew.

"It's one of those things, I never really understood what the Royal Flying Doctor Service was for. I do now, and wow, I'm glad they are there when you need them," Nick said, not mincing his words.

It's clear the incident left Nick shaken, however he remains in high spirits as he continues his road to recovery.

"I've started cardiac rehab and obviously have to take it pretty easy for the time being. Unfortunately my playing days are over," he said. "Although, there are worse games you could have as your last."