Tauranga mother of two credits CPR for saving her life after cardiac arrest at half-marathon

An experienced Tauranga runner and mother of two has thanked the team of first responders who saved her life when she had an acute cardiac arrest during last month’s Hawke’s Bay half-marathon.

Maree Rajpal and family. Source: Supplied

Maree Rajpal, 32, was competing alongside about 8000 runners on May 14 when she suddenly collapsed.

Rajpal is a keen runner and has competed various races since she was 14 years old, including the Tarawera ultra marathon.

“I was feeling great at the start of the race. My body was ready to go, I was hitting targets in my training and everything appeared to be on track. I felt the same, if not better than I have felt before other events,” she said.

A keen runner, Rajpal has competed in events since she was 14 years-old across a wide range of distances, including the Tarawera ultra marathon along with her husband Kunaal.

“The last thing I remember was feeling light-headed,” Rajpal says.

“I pulled over to the side, paused my watch and then the world went black.”

Rajpal is one of more than 2,000 people in New Zealand who is treated for sudden cardiac arrest each year in the community.

“My experience shows the importance of good first aid skills. Without it, I wouldn’t be here today and I can say this for a fact,” she says.

“All up I think there were eight people who gave CPR and saved my life.”

Rajpal was taken to the emergency department at Hawke’s Bay Hospital and then spent two days in the hospital before being transferred to Tauranga.

“I have so many people to thank,” she says.

“As well as the first responders, I feel so grateful to the emergency workers, the ambulance and fire engine drivers who cared for me and transferred me to hospital - particularly the one who drove my kids to the hospital with our puppy on her lap so that my husband could stay with me.

“The nurses and doctors at Hawke’s Bay Hospital were amazing, and the flight team who brought me back to Tauranga.

“The incredible nurses and cardiologist up here have also given me outstanding treatment, and the entire running community has wrapped around me, checking in on me as I recover.”

Research undertaken by St John shows there is a 13 per cent chance of survival following cardiac arrest and for every minute that goes by without CPR or using AED defibrillation the chance of survival drops by 10 to 15 per cent.