Ellington resident Brian Middleton collapsed during the game at Ashington Leisure Centre on October 17.
Three staff members – Mandy Douglas, Robert Brown and Liam O’Brien – came to his aid and used the centre’s defibrillator on him, which his wife Linda and daughter Carolyn Sanderson were told kept him alive until the paramedics arrived.
It had been a tough time for the family before the heart attack, as Linda was diagnosed with breast cancer at the beginning of the year.
However, following chemotherapy and radiotherapy, she has now been in remission for more than a month.
Brian was taken to the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, near Cramlington, for a few days and was then moved to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.
He had three stents put in, his arteries were unblocked and an internal defibrillator was fitted.
The 73-year-old was discharged from hospital on October 26 and is continuing his recovery at home. He will have regular GP appointments and hospital check-ups in the weeks and months ahead.
He said: “I can remember feeling dizzy and then falling to the ground and I can’t remember anything else until I was in the ambulance.
“After hearing about what those three leisure centre staff did, I and everyone else in the family would like to thank them for their life-saving actions.”
Brian’s friend David Cemmill and his wife Hillary, from Red Row, went to the house in Ellington to hand Brian’s belongings to Linda and tell her what had happened.
The couple would regularly walk along the Newbiggin promenade before Linda’s illness and Brian was taking part in walking football sessions three times a week and played golf, so the news of the heart attack came as a big shock to Carolyn and her brothers Jeff Dixon and Darren Middleton.
Carolyn added: “As well as the three leisure centre staff, the paramedics who went there – Dawn and Jamie – were also fantastic. They called-in to find out how he was doing and would have called-in a second time if he hadn’t been moved to the Freeman.
“They told us that if there wasn’t a defibrillator in the leisure centre, my dad would have died. It shows how important it is to have a defibrillator at as many community locations as possible.”
Linda said that the support from family members and neighbours has been excellent.
She added: “David was very upset because he saw it all happen and he told me to go to NSECH as soon as possible. As I was getting ready to go, he said that he knew Brian was a fighter and would pull through.
“Brian has been brilliant for me since my cancer diagnosis and now it’s my turn to look after him.”
Ashington Leisure Centre manager Leanne Beattie said that the prompt and professional actions of the team on duty that day undoubtedly helped to save his life when he went into cardiac arrest.
She added: “It is a situation we are all trained for but to keep calm, think clearly and put that training into action during the extreme pressure of a real life or death incident is quite another matter. I am very proud of how the team handled such a stressful situation so well, including working the defibrillator machine until paramedics arrived.
“We are all very pleased to hear that Mr Middleton is recovering well and on behalf of everyone at Active Northumberland, send him and his family our very best wishes.”