Farm Ireland

Monday 17 December 2018

This farmer was clinically dead but his young son's actions saved his life

A farmer who caught both his parents as they dropped dead from heart failure has told how his own sons saved his life when he stopped breathing because of the genetic condition.

RTE’s flagship farming programme, Ear to the Ground, reveals tonight that 10,000 people die every year because of cardiovascular disease but 80pc of those deaths are preventable.

After carrying out nearly 5,000 health checks in marts over the past four years, the Irish Heart Foundation found eight out of 10 farmers tested had risk factors for heart disease or strokes.

After watching his mother and father both die of heart conditions, Westmeath councillor and farmer, John Dolan, had his own life saved by the quick-thinking actions of his sons when his heart stopped suddenly one morning last July.

Medics told him afterwards that he had been clinically dead but the CPR carried out by his young son saved his life.

“I remember seeing this light in front of me. there is no doubt about that. I wouldn’t have been particularly religious, but I remember that sensation” said the farmer.

Presenter Darragh McCullough with John and Shane Dolan
Presenter Darragh McCullough with John and Shane Dolan

“I knew I was moving towards a light. I was quite OK with it."

The programme revealed how he was saved from death by his young sons, Shane and Cathal, who jumped into action after seeing their father slump on the breakfast table after experiencing a cardiac arrest caused by the condition Sudden Adult Death Syndrome.

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“I was sitting across the table from him and we were chatting and the next thing his head just hit the table”, said his son Shane.

“Cathal rang the ambulance and I started CPR even though I didn’t really know what to do.

“The ambulance talked me through what to do and they stayed on the line the whole time until the ambulance was outside the house.

“I think before the ambulance came, his heart was stopped, and he actually did die, and they had to get him back with a debrilliator.

“It took three jumps of the debrilliator to get him back alive again. They told us that afterwards.

“So, it was just that close.”

Heart Disease

The father-of-three revealed his family history of heart disease was always in the back of his mind before he almost lost his own life to the condition.

“I was in the unique position that both my parents dropped dead and I actually caught both my parents as they hit the ground which is very unusual.

“What is wrong with me is from my mother’s genes which is a (cardiac condition) commonly known as Sudden Death Syndrome.

“So, I was acutely aware there was always the potential that there could be a problem.”

After being rushed to hospital following his collapse in July, he was in a coma for the next two weeks.

“At the beginning there wasn’t much hope at all for him”, said his daughter Aoife.

A consultant told they family that the farmer may not recover at all or he may suffer disabilities because of damage to his brain.

“The third outcome is what we have here today is that he recovered very well, and he is well able to do his day-to-day business and he is back to his good old jokey self”, said his daughter Aoife.

The farmer’s own GP said he has astonished the medical profession with his remarkable recovery in recent months.

“She says ‘we can’t explain medically how you survived’. It took a while for that to sink in”, said John.

“I just realise just how lucky I was, the percentages are very small that you would survive something like this.

“Not too many people get a second chance.”

The Irish Heart Foundation reveals on the RTE show that every minute without CPR the person loses 10pc chance of surviving.

Marese Damery, from the Irish Heart Foundation, said they have carried out health checks on nearly 5,000 farmers over the last four years at marts with worrying results.

"What we have found is 80pc of farmers have risk factors for heart disease and strokes.  It’s high particularly in relation of overweight or obese.

“86pc of farmers are overweight or obese of the people we have seen so far.”

Ear to the Ground will be shown on RTE One tonight, Thursday January 4 at 8.30pm

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