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The rescue that saved an Albany swimmer’s life

EXCLUSIVE - Tim Edmunds and Toby HusseyAlbany Advertiser
Albany mother Marcelle Cannon, pictured at the start of the 2018 Rottnest Swim, is recovering after suffering a cardiac arrest 150m from the finish line on the weekend.
Camera IconAlbany mother Marcelle Cannon, pictured at the start of the 2018 Rottnest Swim, is recovering after suffering a cardiac arrest 150m from the finish line on the weekend. Credit: Daniel Wilkins.

The family of experienced Albany swimmer Marcelle Cannon say they will forever be indebted to the group of first responders who saved her life after she suffered a cardiac arrest just 150m from the finish line of the Rottnest Channel Swim on Saturday.

The 47-year-old mother-of-two is lucky to be alive after collapsing on the brink of finishing the gruelling annual event, sparking a rapid response to save her life.

The water she had taken into her lungs had deprived her of oxygen.

Mrs Cannon managed to raise her hand just before she sank below the surface, attracting the attention of surf lifesavers on a paddleboard who carried her to a boat and began CPR within 30 seconds. They continued on the shore for 20 minutes until paramedics arrived.

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Mrs Cannon was airlifted to Fiona Stanley Hospital in a critical condition and was placed in an induced coma before awakening four days later.

She was yesterday expected to be released from intensive care with her family by her side.

Mrs Cannon is no stranger to the 20km swim, having previously competed as part of a team but this year took on the channel with Albany swimmer Beth Hearle in the newly formed duo Shark Bait.

Mrs Cannon’s husband John yesterday praised the life-saving response of medical teams and said his wife was showing good signs of recovery. “If it wasn’t for the fast actions of the medicos and support crew, it could have been anything,” he said.

“We can’t speak highly enough of them. They are some amazing people. The last thing she remembers is going to work last Thursday.

“When she came out of the coma, the first thing she asked was what the time was and did they get a personal best.

“We have just been overwhelmed by the support coming from the community and all her friends.”

Marcelle Cannon with daughter Gaby after waking from an induced coma.
Camera IconMarcelle Cannon with daughter Gaby after waking from an induced coma. Credit: Supplied

Mr Cannon believes his wife suffered hypothermia, contributing to the serious cardiac arrest.

“Her hand went up first as she thought she wasn’t right and then she inhaled water, so that was the issue for them — trying to get the oxygenation into the brain,” he said.

“She prepares really well and when you’re swimming as a team you have 15 minutes outside of the water when you’re waiting for your turn and you can warm your body up but the ... rotations were that quick she didn’t have time to get her body temperature back up so that was probably what she didn’t plan for.”

Mr Cannon praised organisers of the event, including Rottnest Channel Swim Association president Iain McCarrey, for his support.

“I think they were professionally set up to manage that and it is a risky sport and I think the swimmers know it’s a risk, but we were really fortunate she was in the right spot and got the right treatment,” Mr Cannon said.

“Marcelle would hate to think this would result in any denigration of the event because it’s a great event and unfortunately this happened. She would do it again in a heartbeat, but whether I let her is another thing — it’s been enough stress.” Mr McCarrey said he was extremely happy with the response to the “life or death situation” with surf lifesavers, Sports Medicine personnel and St John Ambulance paramedics working together.

“This is an amazing event but it is extremely dangerous,” he said.

“These are the sorts of incidents which we plan for and everything went to plan. It was a monumental effort by all.”

St John Ambulance clinical services director Dr Paul Bailey said the immediate CPR response was pivotal. “There’s no doubt that the fact that effective CPR was started immediately strongly contributed to this incredible outcome,” he said.

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