Port man saved by defibrillator

Pam Quirke from Portarlington Leisure Centre who led the CPR team in saving a life last January, pictured receiving their White Flag Award last year.

Pam Quirke from Portarlington Leisure Centre who led the CPR team in saving a life last January, pictured receiving their White Flag Award last year.

a Portarlington man was literally brought back to life last month by staff of the leisure centre, after he suffered a serious cardiac arrest in the steamroom.

A dramatic rescue got underway at the poolside while shocked swimmers were led out, in what was the first resusitation involving the pool defibrillator.

At about 10am, the gentleman who is in his 60s, was relaxing in the steamroom when he stood up, then simply dropped to the floor. He was no longer breathing and had no heartbeat.

Luckily another customer was in the steamroom, and she immediately called out for help.

A lifeguard hit the emergency button to alert the centre’s CPR team, led by trainer Pam Quirke, who praised all the staff for their quick reaction.

“It really was an amazing team effort. I was absolutely delighted to see how the training kicked in for everyone, no-one shied away, but we really were emotional afterwards,” she said.

Within 90 seconds, they had begun chest compressions, and called for an ambulance.

Two minutes later, the patient was connected to their defibrillator, receiving his first shock. This gained no response, so the team continued, taking it in turns to giving him breaths and chest compressions. Another stronger shock was administered, and within seconds, the man began to try and breathe on his own.

Two advanced paramedics then arrived on the scene and took over. It was just six minutes into the emergency, but in another stroke of luck, Robert Morton, director of the National Ambulance Service, and Brendan Whelan, head of training, both live in Portarlington. They respond to local calls even while off duty, if they are available.

Minutes later the ambulance arrived so that within an hour and a half of his cardiac arrest, the Portarlington man was receiving specialist treatment at St James’s Hospital in Dublin.

He has recovered remarkably well and a week later had returned home to his wife and family.

“Everything that could have gone right, went right,” said a relieved Pam.

She had particular praise for her gym instructer Julie, who had the foresight to help frightened customers out of the pool, and drove out to tell the patient’s wife and daughter in person about the emergency.

The centre have since received a letter of commendation from Mr Morton of the National Ambulance Service, praising their “swift and dedicated actions in demonstrating the very best that any victim of cardiac arrest could hope for, the ability and determination to save a life”.

Manager Sean Quirke is proud of his staff, who run the only Gold standard White Flag leisure centre in Laois and Offaly.

“Thankfully on this occasion, the combined efforts of a customer raising the alarm, our team, the advanced paramedics, the cardiologist and the customer’s own strength and family support have beaten the odds,” he said.


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