Heart attack fells Olympian
Champion reveals his brush with suicide after suffering brain damage in cardiac arrest
Olympic medallist Dick Tayler has revealed how he has battled depression and had suicidal thoughts following a cardiac arrest two years ago. Tayler, who was best known for winning the 10,000m at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, said his heart stopped for 5 minutes, damaging his brain.
The 70-year-old had been travelling with a group of people, including Paul Ellis and Keith Quinn, to the unveiling of the Colin Meads statue in Te Kuiti in June 2017 when his heart went into cardiac arrest.
He was dragged from the vehicle and people worked to save his life. His friend Quinn stayed frozen in shock in the van they were in.
With the help of the local publican, a defibrillator provided by the fire service and a doctor and nurse who were flagged down from the roadside, his heart restarted.
“I went 14 minutes without oxygen to the brain. A lot of brain damage was done. Not that there was much up there to damage. But thanks to the medical people my life was saved and I’ve been given another chance,” Tayler told Radio Sport’s Jamie Mackay.
“Someone has a cardiac arrest and obviously the heart is a big concern — they got it going again but with not getting blood to the brain I did a lot of brain damage that has caused me a lot of problems.”
The problems included memory loss and negative and suicidal thoughts, he said.
“And I can sympathise with people who have depression . . . the brain is a powerful bit of machinery and if something goes wrong a lot of things just don’t make sense.
“It can play some awful tricks and change our thoughts and feelings and how we look at things. And that’s what it did to me and I never thought I would be the sort of person who would want to get out of this world by doing it myself.”
Tayler’s recovery had been challenging, but he was finally feeling better with the help of a clinical psychologist.
“Physically I’m in better shape than I’ve been in 10 or 15 years. Mentally there’s a lot of work to be done, but a hell of a lot of work has been done.
“There is hope and all I say on the positive side is there is help out there and professional people that can help you,” Tayler said. He urged anyone suffering with depression or any health issues to seek help.
“Life is just so much better now and I’m feeling so good. I can remember everyone, now. She’s got the brain ticked in and there’s no negatives going through the system. It’s good.
“I hope that I can help promote someone else. But for god’s sake if you have trouble ask for help. And bloody males are the worst for anyone at it.
“When they have all sorts of health problems they do nothing about it.”
Dick Tayler says he’s in better shape than he’s been for 10 or 15 years. Above, Tayler winning the 10,000m in the Commonwealth Games in 1974.