Charlie Wake says Christian Eriksen’s return to work after suffering a heart attack last summer inspired him to follow in his footsteps.
Wigan striker Wake collapsed when his heart stopped beating for four minutes during a training session in November.
In an incredible twist of fate, Wigan manager Lim Richardson was the first on the scene to perform CPR – just two weeks after the club’s management team received training to learn how to perform the life-saving treatment.
Wake had a defibrillator in his chest, similar to Manchester United midfielder Eriksen, and returned last weekend – off the bench to claim Wigan’s win in Birmingham City.
It’s been nine months since the former Sunderland striker, who several times thought he would have to retire as a result of hospital procedures he had to endure.
Wake told Sky BEIN in an exclusive interview, “It was the scariest day of my life. I was training as usual and then, all of a sudden, I woke up on the floor, my forearms cut off, with five staff members looking at me. I had no idea what had happened.”
“The last thing I remember was walking up to the manager telling him I was about to collapse but I couldn’t get my words out. Then I later found out that it was actually the CPR in charge who started CPR and made me breathe again.”
“That trip to the hospital in the ambulance was so scary. When I was told it was cardiac arrest, I immediately thought my football career was over. I was completely devastated.”
Wake was accompanied to the hospital by Jonathan Tobin, the Wigan club doctor, who saved Fabrice Mwamba’s life 10 years ago at White Hart Lane.
Tobin was at the time the club doctor at Bolton Wanderers, with whom Muamba played. Tobin took charge of Wyke’s CPR from Director Richardson after arriving on the scene.
Tobin said, “Same with Fabrice, it just hit me afterwards. It was Charlie—not just another patient. He’s a friend, a colleague, a teammate. It really hit you emotionally. Seeing Charlie lying there like that was so hard.”
“I can’t begin to tell you how difficult it is to start resuscitation, even to recognize cardiac arrest in the first place. It’s not like he’s just lying there and not moving.
“So the priest having the courage, the intelligence and the courage to recognize what was going on and act the way he did was amazing.
“It’s hard for a doctor to do that, but for an assistant…it’s an incredibly brave decision.”
Wigan chief Richardson said: “I thought he’d tell me he had a tight hamstring or something, but the events that happened afterwards were amazing.
“Fortunately, my crew and I only had real, in-depth training a couple of weeks ago. Luckily, I was able to connect to training. Luckily, we all did the right thing. But it was a real outside body experience.”
Wakee says he is only here today thanks to the actions of his manager and the doctor.
He said, “I was told that the manager caught me collapsing and within two seconds, he was straight across my chest.
“My heart stopped for four minutes and it was really scary. I wouldn’t be here now without the coach and the doctor. They are my heroes in saving my life.”
Wyke’s defibrillator is the same as Eriksen’s and is there to shock him in case he goes into another cardiac arrest.
“I remember being on vacation and watching everything unfold with Eriksen in the eurozone and thinking ‘You must be very unlucky for that to happen to you as a player’ – and then four months later it was me,” the 29-year-old said.
“But Eriksen inspired me to come back. If he hadn’t, I don’t think I would have done it either. I had to see someone else do it for me to be able to push myself to do it too.”
“I got a call from Mwamba, who was great – he said things were going to get easier, and I also spoke to Daley Blind who was traumatized by the pacemaker going out on the pitch, so it was a good idea to talk to them to help calm my mind about things.”
Wake’s trip hasn’t been without setbacks – and the striker’s comeback was put on hold in March when his defibrillator activated itself in training to shock his teammates.
At that point, Wakee thought he’d have to retire forever, but he’s changed his medication several times and feels like he’s in a much better place.
He revealed, “Did Kane try to tell me something, and I looked right through it. I started getting dizzy, and my pacemaker went off. I went from standing to falling on the floor in five seconds – the pain was unbearable.”
“It totally traumatized my entire body. It was the worst pain I’ve ever had – it was so painful.
“It was a shame for my teammates who had to see it again. There were a few tears from the players which means a lot because it shows how much they care.
“It was very frustrating because I was so close to being back. The only positive thing I can take away from the situation is that I know the defibrillator is working.
“I have wires in my chest now, so if I play and say I’m upset and the wire hits the defibrillator, it goes off, so I have a magnet that turns it off. I can do it myself.”
Wyke has had plenty of time to think over the past nine months, before making his comeback so much to Farah and his family.
He said: “I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve been to Liverpool Heart and Thoracic Hospital, but it’s been great with me. I’ve had five or six procedures and a defibrillator fitted, so it was a tough time mentally and physically.”
“Rob Cooper from Liverpool Hospital is not only my cardiologist; he’s such a good friend now too. We have a special bond. I look at him as a family, we talk every day. He gives me a level of comfort knowing he’s watching over me.”
“I wake up every morning and send my heartbeat to Rob, which is a bit crazy. The first thing I do every day is turn on bluetooth and wait for the readings to load. Then I upload them through the app.
“Going back on the field made me feel better both physically and mentally. It’s the hardest battle I’ve ever had, and I’ve found an inner strength I didn’t think I had.
“A lot of people have said I’m mentally the strongest person they know but I don’t look at it that way – I just know I have no other choice.
“My whole family was in the crowd to watch my comeback last weekend and I think it was the first time my dad had cried. The doctor was there and he was crying too.
“The Wigan fans have been great with me so I wanted to come back for them too. It was a very emotional moment, and something I will remember for the rest of my life. I want to repay the manager, the doctor, and the club.”
What would Wyke’s message be to someone not trained in CPR?
“Make an effort to get trained – you never know what’s around the corner. My episode would have been completely over. If the manager hadn’t been trained, and the doctor wasn’t around, I wouldn’t be here today. I’m so grateful to be really alive, as It is for me to say.”