Cambridgeshire Special Constable performs life-saving CPR on collapsed man during fun run

Special Constable Selly Rowles
Special Constable Selly Rowles

A Cambridgeshire police special constable has spoken of her joy after learning she and others had saved the life of a man who collapsed during a running race.

Selly Rowles, 32, was running in the five-mile road race herself when, after roughly one mile, she noticed a disturbance up ahead and some runners shouting for a marshal.

Tom and Mary Sullivan

Tom and Mary Sullivan

She realised 67-year-old Tom Sullivan was in a ditch collapsed. She stopped and checked his pulse but could not find one.

Selly, who has been a Special for four years, and three other competitors assessed him and started CPR and continued for about 30 minutes before ambulance and then air ambulance arrived.

“The training I had been given as a Special came back to me immediately and I thought, ‘I can do this’”, said Selly, who is based at the road policing unit at force HQ in Huntingdon.

“I went into autopilot and the training took over. I think he was gone for a while and he was changing colour. He would start to draw air in and then he was gone again. He was with us and then he wasn’t.

“We knew he was breathing before we left the scene but I had no idea whether he would survive until the following day when I saw he had woken up in hospital. It made me feel very, very good. It was just sheer happiness knowing he was back with us.”

Running just behind Tom on the day was his 60-year-old wife Mary.

She could only look on in distress as Selly and others rushed to her husband’s aid.

Mary, who is from Northampton, said: “The Red Cross said what they did had to be done immediately because it kept him alive until they arrived and used their defibrillator.

“They saved his life. Everyone has told him he was a very lucky person because the only chance he had was to have someone right there who could do CPR.

“I would like to thank Selly and everyone else who helped. But thank you just seems inadequate, it’s far more than that, they literally saved him and gave him back to us.”

Tom has now had a defibrillator fitted and it out of hospital recovering. He cannot drive for six months but should be able to start running again eventually.

Selly has recently completed her annual life-saving refresher course.

She said: “I was told that what we did before the ambulance arrived had kept his blood circulating and kept him alive. That was when I realised that what we did had saved his life.

“I would have done it for anyone and I hope someone else would have done the same if it was me.”

Selly, who is a keen runner, was competing in a race in Wellingborough on Sunday, July 31 when the incident happened.