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Limerick teacher recovers from cardiac arrest at 32

A Limerick teacher is aiming to teach her entire school CPR two years after the young mother of one collapsed on the camogie pitch.

She says it would be a fitting way for her to personally mark the annual Restart a Heart Day this week.

Michelle Herbert and her family

About Restart a Heart Day

Restart a Heart Day was founded with the support of the European Parliament, and is held on October 16th every year. The aim of Restart a Heart is to raise awareness about out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) and to promote training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

The event has grown in popularity in recent years and is officially a global event for 2018

Michelle’s story

In October 2016, Michelle Herbert suffered a cardiac arrest while playing in the Limerick junior county final for Newcastle West against Tournafulla. It was only the quick-thinking of her marker on the field that saved her life.

Michelle is an agri-science teacher at Hazelwood Secondary College and she is now determined to get all the students trained up on CPR so they could respond just as decisively if they are the first responders on the scene. She has already worked with the Irish Heart Foundation to train transition year students in 25 schools across Tipperary, Limerick and Clare.

“Restart a Heart Day coincides with the two-year anniversary of my cardiac arrest. I think teaching the next generation such a vital life skill would be a great way to mark it. Our plan is to have every child in the school fully trained up. It is extremely likely that many of them will need to use their skills at some stage and it could save somebody’s life,” says Michelle.

Battling for her life

“About five minutes into the second half, I just felt dizzy and I put my hurley out to steady myself and then collapsed. I had suffered a massive heart attack and I got between six and eight defibrillator shocks and about 12 rounds of compressions and then was airlifted to University Hospital Limerick (UHL)” she remembers.

“My marker Sarah-Jane Joy is a nurse and the minute I collapsed, she took off my helmet, put me into the recovery position. She realised when she took off my helmet that it wasn’t a normal situation, that I hadn’t just fainted.

“So she began compressions immediately and it’s only for her quick-thinking and her CPR experience that I survived.

“She took control of the situation and got people to move back and give me room. Then there was a lot of crying and screaming so that even when the defibrillator came, she made sure that there was quiet and they could actually hear what the defibrillator was saying. There were a lot of other nurses and first aiders in the crowd that came and volunteered.”

Michelle’s husband Jer, their two-year-old son Conor, along with her parents Mary and James, who was her team manager, and her uncle Tom, a team selector, all looked on from the sidelines as Michelle battled for her life.


She explains that there was no definitive cause for the cardiac arrest, which saw her heart stop for 26 minutes.

“I had loads of test and had to go on a lot of medication for a good while afterwards. It took a lot out of me but I returned to work full time after five months. It was a lot to get over, mentally and physically,” says Michelle.

She has quit the camogie but continues to go cycling, swimming and take brisk walks.

“I thought it would be selfish to go back. It wasn’t fair on my family or on the players around me. I don’t think Jer would have been able to watch me play and I couldn’t do that to him. He’d be constantly worried. I got to play until I was 32 and I can’t complain about that,” says Michelle.

“Everything fell into place that day. If that is all that happens to me, then I’m lucky. I’m not going to spend my life worrying about the what-ifs.