A Naas man, walking to his car, after a night coaching the under 14 girls hockey team, collapsed on the car-park at K-Leisure and Naas Sports Centre.
Alan Whelan (53) was accompanied by his teenage daughter Laura, on the fateful night of January 25, last, when he fell to the ground at approximately 7.45pm. All the people who contributed to saving the life of a father and husband, gathered at a medal giving ceremony in K-Leisure recently.
Clane woman, Linda Reilly, a member of K-Leisure was one of the first on the scene.
She said:“He was after falling down behind the back of his car. He was talking to me, he was saying his leg was sore. I brought Laura away from it.”
Newbridge teenager, George Ryan, a 5th year student at St Mark’s Special School, told his personal assistant, Paul Hyman, that there was a ‘man on the ground.’
Mr Hyman is a voluntary paramedic in his local village of Clonbullogue.
He said: “I did an assessment on him, I gave him aspirin, it was not working.”
At this point, there were three defibrillators available, one from K-Leisure, one from Naas Sports Centre and Mr Hyman happened to have one in the boot of his car.
He said: “I was talking to him for 11 minutes, I spoke to the ambulance and let them know that he was deteriorating.”
At this point, there was a team of people surrounding Mr Whelan.
Mr Hyman said: “We put on the pads, did 600 chest compressions on him. The defib shocked him, we continued doing CPR.”
He said: “Good CPR is important, everyone there kept it going. It takes 120 compressions every minute. At one stage, I was saying, he could be dead.”
Business Manager at K-Leisure, Brian Grady, was at the front desk when Laura Whelan came in screaming to say that her father had collapsed. He said:" I grabbed a de-fib and ran out. It was bitterly cold. Paul was with Alan on the ground, he was conscious and talking. After 10minutes, he started to struggle for breath. Nobody knew eachother but everyone knew what to do.”
Mr Grady said: “Within 90 secs of him getting a heart-attack, the pads were on. People were doing compressions, and you are there, subbing in and how so many people got involved, this is during the defibrillator.”
He said: “It is important for as many people as possible to be trained. We operate as a team.”
Noel Reid, a trained Paramedic for the HSE ambulances, who now resides in Galway was a member of K-Leisure on the night. He was walking back to his car.
He said: “From the door of the Sports Centre, my initial reaction was that it was someone with a sports injury.”
Mr Reid said: “There were volunteers tending to him before I approached. He was conscious, still breathing. I took an observing role to see what his condition was. He went fully unconscious, his pulse started to fade.”
A shock was delivered by Paul Hyman.
Mr Reid who is now employed as a Private Consultant on Health & Safety, said: “He started breathing, but very poorly.”
Mr Reid said: “The ambulance came. After he was loaded into the ambulance, he was transported to Naas Hospital. There is no crystal ball, to know whether they survive or not, until they arrive to the Cardiology Ward. He was semi-conscious, he did not require ventilation at this point. I went into the emergency room to paramedics in the hospital.”
He is quick to assert that while, ‘there is an element of luck in this, but at the same time, there was a huge element of being pre-prepared, with five to six volunteers trained in CPR, I have to commend the sports centre and gym in having defibs and staff trained in CPR.Not everyone who has a cardiac arrest will require a defib, CPR is at the forefront of care.”
Mr Reid accompanied Mr Whelan in the ambulance and into the hospital.
The following morning, Mr Whelan woke up in St James’s Hospital.
He said: “I asked, ‘where am I, they said, ‘you had a heart-attack, I said, ‘what?’’
He was 52 at the time, now he is 53. On the awards night, he was accompanied by his daughters, Laura and Sinéad, and his wife Mary. His daughter Nicola is currently in New Zealand.
Mr Whelan said: “My cardiologist said, ‘were it not for the prompt attention of the trained people on the night, I would not be here, I could have brain -damage. So many people all lined up to give me CPR.”
An underlying genetic heart condition was the cause of his heart attack. Now he is a member of K-Leisure and he has returned to coaching the girls hockey team.
He said: “There were no warning symptoms.I was coaching for six years at the time.I had not been to a GP for four years. My cholesterol was 5.1 it is down to four now.. I have not changed my diet a lot. I have lost weight due to gym exercise. I had an underlying hereditary condition that I did not know about. You realise the importance of friends and family, it is not all work, work, work.”
He said:” I could have been behind the wheel of a car. It is a reassurance for anyone using this that they have a solid system in place here at K-Leisure and Naas Sports Centre.”
Medals with Our Local Hero engraved were presented at a ceremony, hosted by Yvonne Maher Manager at Naas Sports Centre and Noel Murphy, Manager at K-Leisure.
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