Despite being just 15, Billy Sawyer had fallen victim to a heart attack — a condition which some experts believe could be underestimated in young people.
Billy said he felt “a bit dizzy” after placing fourth in the 100m race at his school athletics carnival on Wednesday but went on to compete in the long jump “without any problems”.
“I remember lining up for the 200m and I have a vague image in my head of running but that’s all I remember … Then I woke up in hospital,” Billy said.
He ran but as he crossed the line, Billy collapsed face-first on the ground in front of shocked students and onlookers.
Mr Lawicki, the Year 10 PE teacher at St Peter’s Catholic College Tuggerah Lakes, ran to help and found Billy convulsing on the ground.
But the situation turned “very serious” when Billy stopped breathing, the colour drained from his face and Mr Lawicki — a first-aid and resuscitation trainer with years of experience — could not find a pulse.
“I launched into (CPR) aggressively, that’s the way we teach it, you’re better off doing something than nothing,” he said.
Mr Lawicki managed to get Billy’s heart started again and breathing and he was flown to The Children’s Hospital, Westmead. Billy has undergone a series of tests and has more to come as teams of neurological and cardiovascular experts try and pin down exactly what sparked the collapse.
Heading the investigation is his doctor, Dr Yew Wee Chua, who said it appeared Billy didn’t have a heart attack in the conventional sense — it was more an interference with the “electrical conduction of the heart”.
“The good thing his teacher Mr Lawicki could do CPR,” Dr Chua said yesterday.
Professor of medicine at the George Institute and Sydney University Vlado Perkovic said while heart attacks in young people were rare, they were not unheard of.
International studies estimated the risk of cardiac arrest in young people at about one in 100,000.
Professor Perkovic said heart attacks were often the cause of sudden and unexpected deaths in young people but went undiagnosed and the cause of death incorrectly attributed to a head injury or other coinciding condition.