Sean McLaughlin, 45, from Downpatrick almost died of a heart attack in November 2014, while taking part in a fundraising boxing event in Ardglass. The father–of–three started to feel unwell at the end of the second round. Suddenly he collapsed in the ring. First–aiders from the Order of Malta rushed to help him. An off duty cardiac rehabilitation nurse from the Downe Hospital had just arrived at the event. She realised what was happening and rushed to help. Her quick action probably saved Sean’s life.
Sean had always kept himself fit but doctors told him that a combination of family history of heart disease and the pressure of work at the engineering firm he part owns were probably to blame.
Six months and one triple bypass later, Sean again found himself feeling unwell. “I started to feel like something was not quite right. I had a tightness in my chest but I at first I just thought the pain was from my triple bypass healing. I’d been warned that it could take up to a year to fully heal.
“But given what happened to me last November, I decided to go to my GP the next morning. In my mind I was just going to get my blood pressure taken, but maybe deep down I knew. I am glad I went! My GP immediately sent me to the Downe Hospital and within hours I was being transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital where I had 4 stents put in. The doctors have told me that had I continued to ignore the pain, I would have had another heart attack.
“My message to anyone who is feeling these symptoms is not to ignore them. The first time I was lucky that a cardiac nurse was in the audience. This second time I was lucky I listened to my gut feeling.”
Sean says he benefited greatly from the cardiac rehab which was with the same nurse who saved his live. However, he is frustrated that he can’t get go back to the gym. “I can’t wait to get back to boxing and weights but I’m told I have to wait a year to allow my body to heal fully from the bypass surgery. In the meantime I am walking 3–5 miles a day. I have had a lucky escape and I am determined to keep my heart as fit as possible for the future.”
Find out more about the cardiac support services that Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke offer.