Huntsville referee recounts story after collapsing during 2017 high school football game
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Mark Russell is grateful to be alive. The former Huntsville City Councilman and current Huntsville Sports Commission Executive Director fell face first on a high school football sideline during a game in 2017.
“Immediately the way I fell something happened to my heart because I didn’t put my hands out to break the fall,” Russell said.
For over 20 years Russell has officiated high school football games in Alabama. On a Friday night during the 2017 season, Russell collapsed. Fortunately, a number of medical professionals were on hand to save his life.
Paulette Berryman, a game photographer, was on the sideline that night and gave Russell CPR. Berryman works as a cardiac care nurse.
Jill and Dion Schultz were the EMT’s at the game from Huntsville Emergency Medical Services, Inc. (HEMSI), and Aaron Hunt, who was working the yardage chains as a volunteer for the game, was an EMT that helped Russell and rode to the hospital as Russell fought for his life.
“So she turned me over (Paulette Berryman) and started pumping my chest immediately,” Russell said. “I was so impressed. I owe them my life obviously. Had that happen on the track at Huntsville Middle School I wouldn’t be here talking to you. So they saved my life and they worked tirelessly to do it. What I was so impressed about was that people that didn’t even know me got involved and worked really hard to save my life and they did it in a matter of seconds.”
Russell can relate to Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin, who continues to recover after suffering Cardiac Arrest during a game against the Buffalo Bills.
“It just so happened that Huntsville EMT and HEMSI were standing on the sideline with their card and everything they needed to help,” Russell said. “They were with me in seconds with a defibrillator and all that. Of course, there are team doctors everywhere on a football field. There are doctors up in the stands, there are doctors on the sidelines, trainers from Huntsville hospital, so everybody was able to help me, and I received very good care very quickly and really made a difference in my life.”
Russell was able to officiate the state championships later during the 2017 season.
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