This Valentine’s Day, learn CPR to restart a heart
3 MIN READ
This Valentine’s Day, why not learn CPR to restart a heart? According to Irish Heart Foundation, one of our flagship charities, starting CPR promptly can double or triple the chances of somebody surviving a cardiac arrest. Learning CPR – it can take as little as 40 minutes to learn the basics – may save the life of the someone you love.
Cathal Joyce’s brother helped save his life by giving him CPR
Athlone GAA player, Cathal Joyce, was warming up for a match one day in September 2015 in Cusack Park, Mullingar. Twenty-five years old and sports mad, he seemed to be in perfect health. But, as he was about to line out for Athlone GAA against Rosemount GAA, in an inter-county semi-final, he collapsed at the side of the pitch.
‘I didn’t know what was happening to me’
“There was three of us kicking a ball to each other,” he explains. “All of a sudden, my coordination started going. I was dropping balls and when I was kicking them they were going way off target. I said to one of the lads, ‘I’m not feeling great’. I didn’t know what was happening to me, to be honest.” One of Cathal’s team mates had to walk him over to the dugout where Cathal’s brother, James, who happened to be the team physio, looked him over. “I told him I was feeling weak. With that my vision went and I collapsed on the ground.” James started CPR on his brother straightaway.
Three rounds of CPR and a shock from a defibrillator
As well as CPR from his brother, Cathal also got CPR from, Stacey Egan, a cardiac nurse with the team, and a doctor from the Rosemount GAA team. “Between them, they saved me,” he says. When an ambulance arrived to bring him to Mullingar Hospital, thanks to the immediate treatment he received, he was conscious and was in the recovery position. But Cathal’s brother, James, wasn’t the only family member to help on the day. “My brother’s wife works in ICU in Mullingar,” Cathal says. “She was just finishing her shift and she came back in when I was admitted.”
‘They told me I’d have to give up sport’
After a range of tests, Cathal was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. “It’s basically an enlargement in the aorta in the heart.” He had an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) fitted in his chest. An ICD is a battery-powered device that gives a person’s heart an electric shock to ensure it beats normally again if it starts beating too fast and chaotically. While it was good to get a diagnosis and the ICD, what he was told next was devastating. “They told me I’d have to give up sport and the most I’d do was a bit of walking or golf.”
More training than ever
But Cathal was determined to keep playing. He was in a competitive match again just 6 months after his cardiac arrest. Two years later, he says he’s doing more training than ever. He’s at Athlone Institute of Technology where he’s studying Social Care. “I’m playing the Gaelic in the college, playing soccer outside college with a local team and I’m playing Gaelic as well with Athlone. I’m flying now, to be honest.” He doesn’t expect players from opposing teams to go easy on him and, fortunately, they have no intention of doing so. “I played last week against Multyfarnham and a good friend of mine was marking me. We were still going at it hitting and slapping each other all over the pitch!”
Supporting families of cardiac arrest victims
Cathal works with the Irish Heart Foundation, to train young people in schools across Ireland in CPR and to raise awareness of the vital role of basic life-saving skills. One of the things that gives him the most satisfaction is the opportunity to support families who have experience of cardiac arrest.
“I’m meeting families who’ve read my story and know that I came out of my cardiac arrest and am still able to play sport,” he says. “They might have a son or daughter who is terrified to do anything because of their condition.” Cathal is able to give them hope that they can play sport again. As he explains, “there’s aftercare for people who have a heart attack but there’s no real aftercare for people who’ve had a cardiac arrest.”
CPR 4 Schools
The Irish Heart Foundation in association with Bank of Ireland launched the CPR 4 schools training programme in late 2017. Designed for post-primary schools, the innovative programme equips teachers with the skills to deliver CPR training to teach their students. The goal is to bring lifesaving CPR training to 400 Irish secondary schools by 2019 (216 schools have already been trained). Learn more about CPR 4 Schools here.
How can I tell the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest?
With a heart attack, the person usually has a pulse, is breathing and can respond to questions.
With cardiac arrest the person has no pulse, is not breathing and is unresponsive.
What is CPR?
Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, CPR for short, involves pressing hard and fast on the centre of the person’s chest and providing rescue breaths to help save their life. It is a simple, easily learned emergency procedure used when someone’s breathing and heartbeat stop suddenly (cardiac arrest). When a person suffers a cardiac arrest and they don’t receive prompt CPR their chance of survival decreases by 10% for every minute that nothing is done. CPR can double or triple their chance of survival.
How can I learn CPR?
Find out about CPR courses and where you can get trained in CPR by visiting the Irish Heart website. It can take as little as 40 minutes to learn the basics and may help you save a life.
How do I restart a heart?