Michael Darlington 60, of Miranda, counts his blessings each day. He suffered cardiac arrest as he played touch football at Old Bush Road Oval, Yarrawarrah, last May 8.
With medical help minutes away, it was up to his teammates and bystanders to keep him alive.
Mr Darlington’s team had just scored a try moments into the second half when the father-of-three collapsed on the field.
“We got back on the field in the second half and I don’t remember anything about it,” he said.
Brett Thatcher, of Engadine, who was playing in Mr Darlington’s team, was the first person to see he was in trouble.
“I thought he’d fallen over and bumped his head,” Mr Thatcher said. “He had shallow breathing but was still conscious.”
In seconds the situation changed and Mr Darlington lost consciousness.
Mr Thatcher began mouth-to-mouth and Matthew Wallis, of Kirrawee, started compressions. They worked tirelessly for six minutes as Peter Ciccia, of Kirrawee, spoke to emergency services through triple-0.
“We got him back twice, so we knew it was working,” Mr Thatcher said.
Across the oval, Matt Alewood and Matt Henson were playing in another game when they saw the commotion.
Both trained in CPR, they took over giving Mr Darlington another seven minutes of resuscitation and chest compressions.
“Mike’s colour started coming back,” Mr Henson said.
When David Stride and Scott McNamara arrived in the ambulance they knew the chances of Mr Darlington surviving were slim.
“I saw the boys doing CPR at the back of the oval and I just told them to keep going,” Mr McNamara said.
“The odds are always against you when someone goes into cardiac arrest but good CPR buys us time and saves lives.”
Mr Darlington had to be shocked with a defibrillator before his heart rhythm returned. He was taken to Sutherland Hospital and had surgery to remove an artery blockage.
After five weeks off work and months of rehabilitation Mr Darlington has made a remarkable recovery. “It was a life-changing event,” he said. “I can’t thank the boys and the paramedics enough.”