Swim England

A nation swimming

‘I realise how lucky I am’ … emotional Nick Parkes thanks team that saved his life

When the Swim England Open Water National Masters championships had to be cancelled this year due to a medical emergency, many people feared the worst.

However, Nick Parkes has made a full recovery and here shares his extreme gratitude in an emotional message to everyone who helped save his life.

Nick Parkes has no recollection of Sunday 30 July, 2023 – but the day will forever be etched in his memory.

It had started full of expectation of successfully defending his Swim England National Masters Open Water titles for the 10th year – it ended with him in hospital hooked up to a range of heart-monitoring equipment after he suffered a cardiac arrest while in the Rother Valley lake.

Yet there was only one thing on his mind as he came round the following day from an induced coma.

The 62-year-old member of Harrogate Swimming Club said: “When I woke up in hospital, out of the coma, they asked me if I knew where I was and I said ‘no idea’.

“They then told me what had happened – and, apparently, I said ‘well, did I win’?

“So, he said, no.

“I have still, to this day, no recollection from the Saturday afternoon. Absolutely nothing … it’s totally lost on me.

“Even from looking at photographs, there’s nothing there at all.”

What Nick has since discovered is that he was pulled from the lake three quarters of the way through his 5k race after he was seen motionless, face down in the water by a kayaker, whisked by powerboat to the pontoon and given emergency CPR and defibrillator treatment before being rushed to hospital.

The swift response from the team on the day – plus the fact he was so fit and active – were huge factors in saving his life.

Absolutely amazing

“I’ve since spoken to the trauma doctor who was sent from Sheffield,” said management consultant Nick. “He said an absolute massive accolade has to go to the team.

“Had I been somewhere else without that team and the way they’ve obviously practiced and got it off to a tee, I think the situation would be different.

“I probably wouldn’t be talking to you now.

“Jonathan and Simon, who drove the powerboats, Simon’s wife Julie along with Leon gave me CPR but the accolade goes to the full team – it was run fantastically.

“So, it’s a massive thanks to everybody there.”

Nick’s wife, Margaret, was watching at Rother Valley and is also indebted to the events team for their sharp reaction to such a traumatic incident.

She said: “The events team were absolutely amazing all round and from that split second, everything was put into place and worked completely 100 per cent to save him.

“We have just got to give you the most huge thank you for everything and the amazing, amazing help that was received.

“From the kayaker, Andy, who spotted him within seconds and kept him above water until the powerboat arrived and then Leon and Julie on the shore who headed up the CPR and Nina and Bob who helped with a huge amount of support after the event – a huge thank you.

“You saved Nick’s life.”

Nick is convinced that swimming regularly is also a contributory factor in enabling him to be able to tell his story.

He had not felt ill ahead of the open water Masters competition but later discovered one of his arteries was completely obstructed, while the other was 80 per cent blocked.

Open heart surgery soon followed but Nick was back home and beginning his rehabilitation less than three weeks after his cardiac arrest.

It was emotional

He has been swimming again, completing a mile in the pool since his emotional return to the water.

Now, he has his sights set on competing in the open water Masters in 2024 – in a bid to defend the titles he won in 2019.

Nick was one of four swimmers to take a clean sweep of gold medals in his age group in the 2k, 3k and 5k races.

This year was the first time the event had been held since then but it was obviously cancelled following Nick’s medical emergency.

“I was asked if I was coming next year,” said Nick. “And I said absolutely.

“When I first walked into the pool, it was really quiet. I lay back in the water and my goggles literally filled up – it was emotional.

“It’s like riding a bike. When you fall off, you have those nerves that you might fall off again.

“But once you do it, you realise everything that you love about it is why you carry on doing it.”

His story has led to others deciding to visit their own GP for a health check – which has pleased Nick.

He said: “A few doctors called me super human and asked which planet I was from. Others have said I’m an inspiration

“I know of swimmers who have been and got themselves checked out since my little episode and that’s good to hear. One was suffering from hypertension and they wouldn’t have known that if it hadn’t happened to me.

“I realise how lucky I am and I can’t thank everyone enough.”