NI minister’s life saved by friend after collapsing in airport with cardiac arrest

A Free Presbyterian minister who suffered a cardiac arrest while travelling to do missionary work is supporting a charity campaign for CPR training to be mandatory in post-primary schools.

Alastair Hamilton, Paramedic Brendan Conway; Rev David McMillan; Keith Pedreschi, Airport Garda Officer; and Gerry Keogh, Chief Fire Officer at Dublin Airport.
Alastair Hamilton, Paramedic Brendan Conway; Rev David McMillan; Keith Pedreschi, Airport Garda Officer; and Gerry Keogh, Chief Fire Officer at Dublin Airport.

Rev David McMillan, 55, had just arrived at Dublin Airport to set off for Uganda in April 2018 when he collapsed. His friend Alastair Hamilton immediately began performing CPR and soon after the airport’s rapid response team arrived with a defibrillator. It was thanks to these quick actions that his life was saved.

The minister at Armagh Free Presbyterian Church was rushed to hospital in Dublin where doctors performed a double bypass.

Rev McMillan said: “We had just arrived at departures when I started to feel unwell and everything went out of focus. That is the last thing I remember but I know now that I’d had a cardiac arrest.

Rev McMillan in Lisburn at the statue of Professor Frank Pantridge, who invented the defibrillator

“It is thanks to Alastair and the staff of the airport that I am here today as they acted so quickly to perform CPR and use a defibrillator.”

The father of two is supporting British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland’s (BHF NI) campaign to make CPR training mandatory in post-primary schools.

Each year around 1,400 people suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in Northern Ireland, but less than one in 10 people survive. The heart charity said if children were given vital CPR training in school the cardiac arrest survival rate would increase.

Rev McMillan added: “I thank the Lord that Alastair was with me that day and do feel that the Lord was looking after me. Alastair had the skills to act immediately and if more people had those skills further lives could be saved. That is why I am backing BHF NI’s campaign.”

CPR training is mandatory in post-primary schools in England, Scotland and Wales and BHF NI said Northern Ireland must not be left behind.

Fearghal McKinney, head of BHF NI, said: “Knowing simple CPR skills and how to use a defibrillator is vital to ensure that every person has the best chance of survival. When a cardiac arrest strikes, for every minute without CPR, the chances of surviving drop by up to 10%.

“We believe so many additional lives could be saved every year and families saved so much heartache and grief if everyone has the training and skills to help them save a life.

“Thankfully Alastair had those skills and we are very grateful to Rev McMillan for supporting our campaign.”

He added that the charity already supplies free CPR training to more than two-thirds of post-primary schools, but added: “We need to do more to make sure that every young person leaves school with the skills to save a life.”