There is no better proof that trained first aiders and defibrillators at rugby clubs save lives than Jessica-Hawthorne-Kaine.


Jessica was recently celebrating England women’s Grand Slam in the RFU Injured Players Foundation hospitality box, having suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch a year ago playing for Ryton RFC.

Having had a lay off with injury, Jessica was sent onto the pitch at York RUFC’s Clifton Park 20 minutes into the game. Her mum Carol cheered her on as York were 7-0 in the lead.  However, minutes later Carol was being held back as a battle for Jessica’s life ensued,

“When I was lying on the ground, teammates thought I had injured my arm, as I had in the past, but our coach Michael Hastie had just done a first aid course and he recognised it was a real problem and put me in the correct position,” said Jessica.

“We had a doctor, Kim Wakkie, and a paramedic, Claire Kilrane, on our team and they gave me CPR.  Like our club, York had a defibrillator, which arrived within five minutes of the girls starting CPR. That’s why I’m here today!” 

Her mum Carol, who was with her watching England, added: “They turned me around so that I couldn’t see and held onto me.  Then I went with Jessica in the ambulance to York hospital.  I was so grateful they had the medical support and the defibrillator.  The next thing I knew she was sitting there asking to go back onto the pitch!”

While the drama unfolded, Jessica’s wife, Alison, who played as the other prop in Ryton’s front row but was at home with a slipped disc, phoned to ask how the match was going. 

“Nobody was picking up the phone, which was strange,” said Alison. “Then Carol sent a message saying there was nothing to worry about but they were going to the hospital.”

Now, with a Subcutaneous Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) which is essentially her own defibrillator implant, Jessica is enjoying life, although she misses playing rugby.

“Keswick rugby club gave funds to Ryton for more CPR training as the girls went on tour to them the weekend after my cardiac arrest,” said Jessica. “And at Ryton they introduced the Jessica Hathorne-Kaine Guardian Angel award, which was given to Claire and Kim, our paramedic and doctor.” 

“I’m so grateful to the whole of Ryton club for their support to us during that difficult time and beyond. Our other coach, Richard Ward, and our team captain, Alison Meek, went above and beyond, racing to pick Alison up and bringing her to the hospital to be with me. 

“I am so glad that, like Ryton, York had a defibrillator.  I think all clubs need one. My club is now hoping to get a second portable defibrillator for the top pitches furthest from the clubhouse. Rugby clubs need them and more guardian angels who can undoubtedly save lives.”


Bursaries For Defibrillators

The RFU are working with London Hearts, an England wide charity and one of the leading heart charities in the UK for placing defibrillators in communities. With every package, together with the defibrillator itself, London Hearts provides an online CPR and defibrillator training video and ongoing support, including advice on purchasing and maintenance of an AED unit.

The RFU is currently offering a £250 bursary, that’s in addition to the £300 subsidy already offered as part of the London Hearts package, so clubs can potentially purchase a defibrillator for around £300-500 (depending on model/accessories etc.) instead of £900-£1200. 

There are 100 bursaries available, these will be granted on a first come first serve basis, and the closing date for applying for a bursary is 30th September 2023.

Please contact Jo Lovell at London Hearts on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or ring 02070432493, ensuring you mention that you would like to claim one of the RFU defibrillator bursaries.

London Hearts also offers support and guidance to clubs who already have a defibrillator and can offer advice on maintenance, pad replacement, storage etc. For more information please visit the RugbySafe Community Rugby First Aid Provision & Information Toolkit.



Latest News

Real Stories

  • Tom's Story

    'I could have got to Uni without the IPF help, but I'm not sure I would have gone to Uni without the IPF help.'

    Read more

  • KJ's Story

    "There wasn’t a single day that the IPF and the club weren’t there for me. It has made me appreciate rugby even more.”

    Read more

  • Jamie's Story

    “Life is not the same as it was but a million times better than it could have been."

    Read more