‘Anne’s kiss of life saved me when my heart simply stopped dead...’
Sunday Game presenter Michael Lyster was moments from death, but his wife kept him alive, writes Jerome Reilly
The Sunday Game anchorman Michael Lyster has told how his wife Anne saved his life after he collapsed and his heart stopped beating.
Annee Lyster used cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), the emergency lifesaving technique used when breathing or heartbeat has stopped.
The RTE broadcaster, who is 61, was kept alive by Anne who quickly initiated chest compressions and the kiss of life as she waited for the ambulance to arrive at their South Dublin home, nine days ago.
“I am not a religious person but I suppose I would be spiritual. When something like this happens you are left with no doubt in your mind but that there is a thin line between dying and surviving. And you have to wonder about these things. You have to think ‘it just wasn’t your time.’
“If it wasn’t for a set of circumstances I would not be here today. I would have been gone. I would have kicked the bucket last Friday.
“But instead I am alive and I feel entitled now to wonder about things… about a time to die,” he said
The Waterford-born GAA anchor, known for his laid-back, on-screen persona, says he has suffered from a heart condition for a number of years, but had no warning whatsoever before he collapsed at the front door of his Cabinteely home in Dublin.
For Michael Lyster the difference between life and death was the “stroke of luck” of forgetting his mobile phone — and the wisdom of his wife, Anne, taking the time to learn the life-saving CPR technique at a first aid course.
“I had been down in Portumna playing golf and I was with a good friend of mine [Irish Independent sports writer ] Vincent Hogan. We had a bite to eat after the round and Vincent was driving so he left me off at my house at about 11.30pm,” he said, from his hospital bed.
“For some reason, when he left me off, I realised that I had left my mobile phone in his car and I reckoned that I would need it, so I went quickly to the house phone and rang Vincent. He wasn’t very far away so he said he would come back and would be with me in two minutes.
“I remember walking towards the front door and opening it and that is all I remember. I was down on the floor when Vincent arrived and I remember nothing until I started to regain consciousness in the hospital.
“Over the past few days I have slowly been able to piece it together. What had happened was that Vincent saw me on the floor and he immediately called up the stairs for my wife Anne while he phoned the ambulance.
“Anne has had first aid training, so she started doing CPR on me and was talking to the guys in the ambulance as they made their way to us.
“I came to sometime on Saturday, but to be honest, from the time that Vincent dropped me off until the following day I had no recollection at all of what had happened. You are in a hospital bed and people are saying to you ‘do you know what happened?’ but I didn’t. Everything was gone. It was very vague.”
The sports journalist, who grew up in the GAA heartland of Barnaderg, in North Galway, where his father was stationed as a garda, says it was the quick and calm actions of Anne, the mother of his four grown-up children, which saved his life. “She just went into action. Vincent called the ambulance and the crew talked them through what to do. Anne has had first aid training, as have I, so that was the key to it.
“There is no question about it but I was dying. And had I not forgotten the phone in the first place I would have died downstairs with everyone in bed.
“It is so strange because my phone wouldn’t be a thing … but had I not forgotten it, had I not called Vincent, had he not come back, that was it. I was gone. I would have died on the kitchen floor.’’
Lyster has learned to live with cardiac trouble but the cardiac arrest he suffered means that he will now have a pacemaker fitted this week.
“It’s just something I have; heart difficulties. Some people will have 10 heart attacks, I simply had a troubled heart for years. It was being managed on the medication and it was under control from that point of view. But obviously, this was a major heart attack without warning,” he said.
“This is just a symptom of my heart problems but the first thing that you come to realise is how incredibly lucky you are. Just a couple of circumstances fell into place and that is what saved my life. I was just very, very lucky.”
Michael, who has also proven to be an assured anchor during RTE’s coverage of Olympic games has been married for 30 years. Two of his children, Rebecca and Jack, still live at home, while Mark and Ellen live nearby in South Dublin
“I have been showered with love all week by my family and my friends. The number of people who have been texting me is astonishing, even people I only half know and haven’t heard from in years.
“One text was simply ‘FFS!’ and Joe Brolly sent me one saying: ‘I hear you are still alive.’ That was funny. I was going to text him back: ‘No, I died last week.’ And really, that could have been true. I could have died last Friday and there was no guarantee even when they got me to hospital that I was going to make it. It was touch and go.
“What will happen now is that I am going to have a pacemaker fitted on Thursday. The doctors were talking about that a couple of years ago but they didn’t do it then because of the medication and other bits. But they’re definitely doing it now,” said Michael, who expects to be back in the chair at The Sunday Game in a couple of weeks.
“Well, in time for the Munster hurling final,”he added.