Charlie Wyke’s heart stopped for FOUR MINUTES when he suffered a cardiac arrest in November 2021 – the Wigan star tells Mail Sport how boss Leam Richardson saved his life and details his recovery
- Wigan’s Charlie Wyke collapsed and suffered a cardiac arrest in November 2021
- Wyke recovered and was Sky Bet League One’s Player of the Month for August
- Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast It’s All Kicking Off!
It is a day that Charlie Wyke will never be able to forget.
The prolific Wigan striker was undergoing a light training session with the League One side on a Tuesday in November 2021, but something wasn’t right.
Wyke – who had been struggling with spells of dizziness in the preceding weeks – exhaled, before recalling the scariest moment of his life to Mail Sport.
‘The most craziest day,’ the 30-year-old begun.
‘The last thing I remember is walking over to the manager (Leam Richardson). I was about to say “look, something’s not right, I think I’m going to collapse”, and that’s when it happened.
Wigan striker Charlie Wyke suffered a cardiac arrest during training back in November 2021
The 30-year-old spoke exclusively to Mail Sport about the incident – where his heart stopped beating for four minutes – his recovery and return to playing around nine months later
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‘As I’ve said that I supposedly collapsed and then I’ve woken up and got no shorts on. My boots are cut off and I’ve got no sleeves on my top which is split the whole way up, but I’ve still not got a clue what has gone on.’
Wyke had indeed collapsed. He suffered a cardiac arrest on the training pitch and his heart stopped beating for a whole four minutes.
Within seconds, everything the marksman had ever known came crashing down.
‘There were just a few staff there and I’m asking them what happened,’ he added.
‘There were tears in some of their eyes and I’m thinking “this can’t be good”. I tried to sit up and they were like, “listen, stay still! The ambulance is coming.” Then in the ambulance the doctor said “Charlie you’ve had a cardiac arrest”.’
Wyke was taken to hospital and stayed there for a month as doctors desperately tried to get to the bottom of everything.
‘It was the craziest month of my life,’ Wyke explained. ‘You’re on the hospital bed thinking that’s my career done and then you get little glimpses of hope.
‘The first few weeks I didn’t really want to speak to anybody. I only spoke to Max Power (Wigan team-mate at the time) who was passing messages to and from the lads.
‘There was still Covid rules in hospitals so I could only see my Mum, Dad and son Albie for like five minutes so that was hard.’
Wyke admits he is lucky to be alive with the forward only saved by Wigan boss Leam Richardson beginning the resuscitation process with CPR, before club doctor Jonathan Tobin – who also saved the life of Fabrice Muamba on the pitch in 2012 when the Bolton midfielder collapsed against Tottenham – took over.
It was all the more remarkable given club staff at Wigan had only been given life-saving CPR training three weeks before.
Wyke said: ‘I will always be indebted to them. I still speak to Leam all the time despite him no longer being at the club, while Jonathan is probably the staff member I’m closest to.
‘They’re both invited to my wedding next year so I’ll have to do a speech for them, but if it wasn’t for them doing the course three weeks before, I wouldn’t be here now.’
Wyke received support from his team-mates in the aftermath and throughout his recovery
Wyke’s life was saved by former Wigan boss Leam Richardson who gave him CPR on the pitch, despite having only undergone training on the life-saving process three weeks before
After Richardson begun the procedure, Wigan’s club doctor Jonathan Tobin (right) – who also saved the life of Bolton’s Fabrice Muamba after he collapsed on the pitch in 2012 – took over
Once he got his head around everything that had happened, Wyke knew there was going to be a long road ahead.
The 30-year-old underwent a couple of operations, which included a defibrillator being fitted inside his chest – akin to the procedure Christian Eriksen had in order to return to playing after collapsing at Euro 2020.
But, after a journey of ups-and-downs, Wyke finally rejoined training in March 2022 before his defibrillator activated itself, much to the shock of his team-mates, which put an even greater mental and physical strain on Wyke.
He added: ‘I’ve got a great relationship with Rob Cooper who works in Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital.
‘He was saying to take it step-by-step. I had a few operations, had the defibrillator put in and at this point I’m sort of thinking there’s no chance I’ll play football again.
‘So I went back to the hospital, did more tests and then he finally said you can start training with the lads. But then one thing led to another and my defibrillator went off.
‘I’m there thinking, that’s me done. That’s not just me physically done but also me mentally saying I can’t go through all of this again.
‘I said to my dad “if this (the procedure) doesn’t work, that’s me done” so I had it and thankfully everything has been fine and touch wood there’s been nothing else since the defibrillator went off.’
Given everything Wyke went through, there were questions whether it was even worth continuing to try and make a comeback.
However, conversations with some famous faces who had experienced similar levels of adversity helped to convince the striker that it was worth doing everything he could.
He added: ‘I spoke to Muamba when I was in hospital. I had a half an hour call with him and he was saying “you’ve just got to really think if you want to play football again”, so that was in the back of my mind.
‘But I actually FaceTimed Daley Blind from my house. I don’t know how that came about because he is a superstar and a big name player.
‘He was saying “look this happened to me twice and I feel fine now, I’m at the bottom of it all so take your time and see how it goes. And if it’s not meant to be it won’t be, but stick at it and work hard”.’
Wyke has a defibrillator fitted inside his chest which is on the left side of his ribcage (above)
Wyke – who counts Sunderland and Bradford among his former clubs – is known as one of the Football League’s most prolific marksmen and has scored more than 100 goals in his career
After an inspirational effort, Wyke made his return to playing in August 2022 around nine months after his cardiac arrest.
It turned out to be a dream comeback as he came off the bench to assist Nathan Broadhead’s winner in a crucial 1-0 away victory for Wigan at Birmingham.
‘If you ask any footballer what their best career moment was, they will probably say a goal at Wembley or something,’ he said.
‘But mine was warming up at the side of the pitch that day. And even if I didn’t get that assist it probably would’ve been my best moment in football but to come on and set up the winner, it was just the best moment of my life.
‘And to see my family in the stands crying and all of that stuff, it was a perfect day for me really.’
Wyke went onto net five goals last season but Wigan were ultimately relegated from the Championship after receiving a three-point deduction for failing to pay their players on six separate occasions – something that saw them begin this campaign on minus eight points.
Before his cardiac arrest, Wyke was known as one of the most dangerous strikers in the Football League with more than 100 career goals, while he netted 25 times in the previous campaign when playing for Sunderland.
Despite Wigan’s off-field troubles, Wyke has spearheaded a superb start to the season for a youthful Tics side who are led by club legend Shaun Maloney, with the forward netting five times in five games in August.
They have 10 points from six games, which equates to two with the deduction, but are already up to 21st in the table and just two points off safety.
Wyke’s exploits have seen him named Sky Bet League One’s Player of the Month for August in an achievement that is as inspirational as it is testament to his mental strength and bravery.
Wyke has had a stunning start to the 2023-24 season, scoring five times in six league games
This led to the striker being named Sky Bet League One’s Player of the Month for August
And for the 30-year-old, it is a deserved reward for going through moments that would break most people.
He said: ‘Last season physically and mentally I wasn’t in the right place to score 10 goals. My body just wasn’t able to do what I wanted to do.
‘I don’t think I’ll ever be back to the fitness levels I was at before all of this but I’m feeling good at the moment.
‘My perspective on life is different now too. It could’ve all been taken away from me. I have a partner and fiancee, a son, and the first thing that went through my head was they could have just been left by themselves.
‘My son was only two so he probably wouldn’t remember me in seven or eight years which is the scariest thing.
‘Now, I’ll never complain about a training session being too hard or a game. I was so desperate to get back into something I’ve done all my life and you just can’t take anything for granted.’
After such a stellar start to the campaign, you would forgive Wyke for resting on his laurels given everything he has been through, but his determination to keep breaking barriers is inspiring.
He continued: ‘At the start of the season I said I just want to play as many games as I can. But, now I want to get as many goals and assists as I can.
‘Every time I’ve been in League One or Two I’ve been quite high up the goalscoring charts so it’d be nice to be there at the end of the season to know I’m fully back.
Wyke (middle) has inspired Wigan to three victories despite Shaun Maloney’s side starting the year on minus eight points after the club failed to pay their players on six occasions last season
Maloney is a club legend at Wigan and the 40-year-old took over as manager back in January
‘It means the world to me winning this award. It’s actually my first time as well which makes it even better.
‘I’m delighted with everything that’s happened after last year and to come and have a full pre-season and hit the ground running is amazing for me.
‘It’s something I wanted to happen but probably didn’t think would and it has put a lot of confidence in me going forward.
‘People say they’re not bothered about Player of the Month as long as the team are doing well but for me, this was really important.’
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