Nicola: Our 12-year-old son Emmet saved his daddy’s life after cardiac arrest by performing CPR
Nicola McCrudden and Paddy Gallagher want to spread awareness of how a heart attack can happen to anyone at any time and what people should do in this situation.
She said: “Paddy didn’t have any obvious signs or symptoms leading up to his heart attack. He had what is known as a widow maker heart attack which came on suddenly.
“Paddy works in construction and was coming home from work tired. We put it down to him getting a bit older and the impact heavy work was having on his body, even though he was physically fit. He also had long Covid and hadn’t been quite the same since.”
Recalling the day Paddy had his heart attack Nicola said: “We were in Donegal visiting family at Easter. That morning we had been playing football on the beach with the kids. We were in the car coming back when Paddy said, ‘Stop the car, I don’t feel well.’ It came completely out of the blue.”
Nicola drove to Paddy’s brother’s house nearby and phoned an ambulance which took around 45 minutes to arrive from Letterkenny.
“The wait was awful - we were just trying to keep Paddy calm as he thought he was dying. He felt cold and clammy and had tightness in his chest, which was getting worse as time went by.”
Nicola added: “The ambulance call handler was on the phone the entire time and they were very helpful and supportive. They advised us to get Disprin and told us how much to give Paddy. That helped - he felt things easing but was still in a lot of pain and discomfort.”
Paddy was taken to Letterkenny University Hospital where he was stabilised. He was then transferred to Altnagelvin Area Hospital where he had five stents inserted. The next day he was transferred to the Mater Hospital in Belfast and was discharged after five days recovering there.
Nicola and Paddy thought they would be looking to the future and putting what happened behind them but unfortunately, worse was still to come.
Nicola said: “A few days after Paddy came home from hospital I was at the gym. Our son Emmet, who was 12 at the time, phoned and said, ‘Daddy’s on the floor’. Paddy was having a cardiac arrest. I told Emmet to ring 999 and just dropped everything and ran out of the gym.”
“When I got home five minutes later, Emmet was doing CPR with the call handler’s guidance. It is amazing he was able to do that at his age- he was alone and terrified but without a doubt his actions saved his daddy’s life.”
Nicola said the first thing she would tell people to do in that situation is phone 999 immediately.
"The call handlers are the experts and will calmly talk you through what you need to do. It’s so important everyone knows that – adults, young people and children.”
Nicola added: “I took over doing CPR. I was trained in CPR a very long time ago, but the call handler was there to help me and keep me right. CPR takes a lot out of you, and I told Emmet to run next door and get help. Thankfully, our neighbour Martin was in. He is CPR trained and took over. He continued until the emergency services arrived and we are forever grateful to him.
“Every minute matters in these sorts of circumstances. If Emmet hadn’t of been there and we weren’t able to start and continue CPR Paddy wouldn’t be here.
“The ambulance crew arrived shortly afterwards and they had to shock Paddy to get a pulse. Thankfully the Air Ambulance doctors arrived simultaneously and were able to carry out a medical procedure to ensure oxygen flow.
“Paddy was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital and had an emergency stent procedure. One of the stents had clotted, causing a blockage, which resulted in the cardiac arrest. It's one of those things you never think will actually happen. You certainly don’t think it’s going to happen twice.”
After two weeks in hospital Paddy was able to go home and begin his second recovery journey.
“Thankfully Paddy is doing well, all things considered. Before his first heart attack he was a smoker- not a heavy smoker, but he stopped immediately. Although he doesn’t drink, he would have eaten a lot of sugary and fatty foods to keep his energy levels up at work and you wouldn’t have seen him eating a lot of fruit or vegetables. He eats completely differently now.”
When asked about his advice to others Paddy said: “If you are experiencing something you feel isn’t right for you health wise, go and get it checked out. I think it’s important that men hear this message. Sometimes we are less likely to ask for help and support, but it is important we do.”
Fidelma Carter, Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke, said: “This World Heart Day we would urge people to remember the STOP acronym: S – Something’s not right – symptoms can start slowly; T – Tightness or pain in the chest, pain in the arm, neck, or jaw; O – Other symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea, or sweating; P – Phone 999 immediately.”
“The sooner a potential heart attack is recognised, and the faster medical help is sought, the better the chances of recovery are.”
If you have been affected by a heart condition and need support visit https://nichs.org.uk/care-and-support/heart-support