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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 19 May 2018
28 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 19 MAY 2018 SPORT CON STAMOCOSTAS "I saw the light a few times. Nothing hurt, it was very peaceful. I just saw a bright light turn on and off," Chris Kalantzis says, recalling his remarkable tale of survival. Kalantzis is one of Australia's greatest ever footballers. After starting his career at Sydney Olympic in the mid-1980s he spent the next decade with Greek powerhouse clubs Olympiakos and Panathinaikos, winning numerous Greek League and Cup titles. A day after Kalantzis' 50th birthday, the Greek Australian footballer did not feel well so he decided to leave the Greek island of Mykonos where the celebrations took place and travel to Rhodes to seek medical help. A pharmacist recognised him from his playing days and once he heard his symptoms recommended that he immediately see a cardiologist who was close by. Tests showed that Kalantzis was in the midst of a cardiac event and he found himself being transported to hospital in an ambulance and in need of urgent medical assistance. "I had two blockages in my artery and when they were trying to put the stents in to open the blockage I passed away four times," he says. What makes the story even more remarkable is that Kalantzis' father had a heart attack around the same age and also survived. Having a heart attack is traumatic enough, but Kalantzis says his experience in Greece added unwanted anguish to his situation because the medical staff were quarrelling during the procedure. Chris Kalantzis: ‘How I died and came back four times’ Former Socceroo and Olympiakos legend Chris Kalantzis was brought back from the brink of death on four occasions after suffering a heart attack in Greece last year "On the table I just kept fading in and out," he says. "The surgeon kept on swearing and arguing with the nurse because she could not find the right stent size. So, I was stressing a bit. They zapped me four times; they put the electrodes there and kept buzzing." It's a year since Kalantzis' heart attack, and at the end of May he will be attending a World Cup charity event for Heartbeat of Football (HOF) which promotes heart health through sport. Former SBS and Fox Sports presenter Andy Paschalidis cofounded the charity after witnessing a Forest Rangers teammate die on the field from a heart attack without the assistance of a defibrillator. Between 2012 and 2014, 12 footballers from NSW died from cardiac-related incidents, and Paschalidis has worked tirelessly to have these lifesaving devices installed at all sporting venues around Australia. Paschalidis told Neos Kosmos he was delighted to have Kalantzis attend the upcoming fundraising event. "Chris' story as a former player is one of the most compelling that I've ever heard," he says. "When you see an iconic football figure like Kalantzis at the age of 50 have a heart attack, it's a bit eerie. I'm glad he is here, and I'm elated that he will be celebrating with us. I'm sure it will be the most engaging and eyeopening conversations that we have that night." In the last 15 months, seven players in NSW have had their lives saved because of the quick reaction of CPR-trained responders who were on hand and also used defibrillators at the grounds. Kalantzis implored footballers of all ages to get health checks, and lauded Paschalidis and HOF for their work in raising awareness about defibrillators. "Andy's work is excellent," he says. "It's something that needs to be done, it's not something you can shove aside and say that's not needed. It's hearts. People are playing, they are running, they get knocked, they get hit, and they get stressed. Out of so many players who play on the weekend, if there is something there that can protect anyone at least you've got a machine there that can give you a chance." While Kalantzis was told that his condition was hereditary, his lifestyle choices also had an impact, and he warned all players to take precautionary measures before they take the field. "You should not let that chance come about," he says. "You can help yourself by going once a year to the doctor and checking yourself out. For a couple of years, I felt that something wasn't right, just a bit of dizziness and feeling weak. I should've looked at it earlier, but I thought I'd go have it checked after my 50th birthday. But it didn't turn out like that." Also attending the HOF function will be former Australian World Cup coach Rale Rasic, and Greek Australian football legend Stan Lazaridis who played over 60 times for the Socceroos and for over a decade featured in the English Premier League with West Ham United and Birmingham City. He says HOF is close to his heart because of the unfortunate event that happed to one of his former West Ham teammates in 2003. "I played with Marc Vivien Foe and he was one of those players that had a heart attack and unfortunately he died," he told Neos Kosmos. "I was very sad when that happened. He was away on international duty for Cameroon at the time. It was as if it wasn't real. I just thought it can't happen to him. He was such a fit player, he would run and up down the park. You just never think it can happen to a footballer. Unfortunately, it can DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM ISSN 1321-1676 9 771321 167062 happen to anyone. "Having these defibrillators that Andy is behind enables players to be saved. I've taken notice of what's been happening, and I have stood up now. The issue is very real and it's serious and if you can save a life why wouldn't you be behind it." Paschalidis says that having someone of the stature of Lazaridis attend the HOF function will help raise more awareness for the cause. "When he heard about what I was trying to do it was incredible," he says. "He didn't hesitate to put his hand up to be there. I was floored by his commitment. He's seen what has happened firsthand. Look at what we've gone through in the last few months; we've lost players such as English legends Ray Wilkins and Cyrille Regis, Italy international Davide Astori and we are losing grass roots players as well." Even before Paschalidis started HOF, the NSW and Victorian state governments started funding defibrillator provision in sports clubs, but not all venues have them, which is why his desire to save lives and create health awareness continues. "The mission can't stop. We need every sporting ground in Australia to have defibrillators," he says. "But more importantly, in the event of someone having a heart attack we need to ensure that there are people there that know CPR and that are first aidtrained, because a player won't survive with just a defib, you've got to do the CPR and then the defib kickstarts the heart.” Paschalidis says the upcoming events provide a chance to celebrate what the Australian community has done for the game as well. UPCOMING EVENTS World Cup Celebration on Saturday 26 May, 7.00 pm at the Canterbury-Hurlstone Park RSL Club, 20-26 Canterbury Rd, Hurlstone Park, NSW. Special guests Rale Rasic, Brett Emerton, and other former Socceroos from 1974 and the ‘Golden Generation’ of 2006 celebrate qualification into World Cup 2018. Tickets are $150, with all profits going to HOF. Go to chprsl.com.au/BigTicketShows or call (02) 9559 0000. Heartbeat of Football Launch, Melbourne on Wednesday 6 June, 7.00 pm at Kinisi Live, 560 Church St, Richmond, VIC. HOF founder Andy Paschalidis joins guests Stan Lazaridis, Alan Davidson, Kimon Taliadoros, Con Boutsianis, Joe Biskic, Joe Palatsides, Peter Tsolakis, and others. Tickets are $100, and include dinner and drinks. Contact andy@ heartbeatoffootball.com.au or call 0412 184 048.
12 May 2018
26 May 2018