“It was like I had won the Lotto.” They are not the words you expect someone to use to describe their heart attack but, for 65-year-old Donegal man Sean Culleton, luck was definitely on his side when he collapsed on the golf course two years ago.
Sean would surely have not survived the out-of-hospital cardiac arrest had he not found himself surrounded by people who were trained in CPR.
The retired warehouse manager from Ballyshannon, Co Donegal collapsed during a team match between Bundoran and Cloughaneely in July 2016.
He was standing on the 12th tee in Cloughaneely when he fell to the ground just after teeing off. Brian McGee on the opposing Cloughaneely team was a trained ‘first responder’ and began working to revive Sean.
Owenie McGee, also a trained paramedic and member of the fire service, raced from the next green and commenced CPR while two other firemen, Denis Boyle and Joe Friel, who were also playing close by, ran over. 112/999 was called and the National Ambulance Service sent emergency resources.
Antoin McGee was soon on the scene with the local fire brigade defibrillator. The National Ambulance Service and the Fire Service worked on Sean for 40 minutes. Dr Lochlann McGill, who lives nearby, was also present.
Sean was then rushed to Altnagelvin Hospital where he had a stent inserted before being transferred to Sligo University Hospital. He had no memory of any of the events .
“It was pretty surreal, I suppose. Everyone was telling me about the panic at the time but sure I missed it all,” he jokes.
After six weeks of cardiac rehab in Sligo, which Sean said was ‘fantastic’, he felt much stronger and ready to get back on his beloved golf course.
“The rehab really helped to give me my confidence back. They monitor you while you exercise so you are completely reassured that your body can take it,” explains Sean.
Within a year, he took home the Captain’s Prize in Bundoran Golf Club.
He got back playing golf in September 2016, just over two months after his heart attack. After slowly building back up to full strength and confidence, he was back in the form of his life to take the Captain’s Prize in July of the following year.
Sean is married to Mary and the couple have a son and two daughters.
He still plays plenty of golf and says he will never forget the people who saved his life that day.
“I had been feeling tired for a few days in the lead up to the game and just thought that I was getting too old to be playing competitive golf. I remember telling the lads that I was feeling tried as I stood on the tee and the next thing I can recall is waking up in the ambulance in Stranorlar on my way to Sligo. I don’t remember being in Altnagelvin at all. Fair play to those boys. I really owe them my life. They brought me back from the edge of death and it looks like I’ll be here for a while yet to annoy Mary, thank God"
Micheal Murray, Cloughaneely Golf Club PRO, said the incident showed the value of early CPR and said he was in no doubt that it saved the golfer’s life.
“The intervention on the course by his fellow golfers was what ultimately saved Sean’s life as, to all intents and purposes, the man was dead. That’s what the doctor told us. He was just lucky that the right men were in the right place at the right time,” says Michael.