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Thursday 23 January 2020

'I'm not a medic, I just watch a lot of TV' - Woman who saved stranger dying of heart attack

St Columcilles Hospital, Loughlinstown
St Columcilles Hospital, Loughlinstown

Cillian Sherlock

A woman who saved a stranger from dying of a suspected heart attack said she learned the life-saving manoeuvres from TV.

“I’m not a medic, I just watch a lot of '24 Hours in A&E,'" Fiona told RTÉ Radio One’s Liveline.

The man, who is in his 50s, presented himself at St Columcille's Hospital in South Dublin on Wednesday and complained of chest pains.

But he claims that he was turned away by hospital staff because he did not have a GP referral letter in his possession.

He left the hospital and travelled to Bray to meet his GP where he collapsed on the main street.

Fiona told Liveline she saw a crowd of people around the man.

"I was just up the main street in Bray and I crossed the road and saw a crowd of people. There was a man on the ground everyone was in shock. I just bent over and said that he was okay and help was on the way.

"He didn’t look great. I then realised he wasn’t with us anymore. He was gone. I just rolled him over onto his back. I was conscious of getting oxygen to his brain so I just started giving him chest compressions," she said.

She said she was going to keep giving him compressions for "as long as it took."

"It felt like ten seconds but it was probably more like a couple of minutes. There just happened to be paramedic students in the area and someone flagged them down. They were able to administer defibrillation," Fiona said.

The man is now recovering at home following an operation and St Columcille’s Hospital has launched an investigation into the claims.

Fiona said she doesn’t know who the man was but hopes he makes a speedy recovery.

"I hope he makes a speedy recovery and thinking of his family as well. I’m just glad that he’s back with us," she said.

"I never thought I’d come across anything like this but you’re just in shock. I’m not trained in anyway so I was just conscious of keeping oxygen to his brain. It didn’t hit me for a few days how serious it was," she added.

While the hospital would not comment on "individual cases", a spokeswoman told that that the medical assessment unit does not accept "walk-in patients".

"The Medical Assessment Unit assesses patients referred by GP with acute medical conditions such as Chest Infection, Urinary Tract Infection, Collapse, Deep Vein Thrombosis, Anaemia without active bleeding, fever and headaches. The MAU is open seven days per week from 8 am to 6 pm.  It accepts GP referrals and patient transfers from St. Vincent’s University Hospital.  It does not accept ‘walk in’ patients," the spokeswoman said.

“The IU is open seven days per week from 8am to 6pm. It manages ‘minor injuries’ and governance of the unit is with the Emergency Department in St Vincent’s University Hospital.

 The Medical Assessment Unit (MAU) and the Injuries Unit (IU) have seen a combined total of 12,778 attendances in 2016.”

On the same programme, Paddy Bourke from the Waterford area detailed his own experiences with heart disease and referral letters.

Mr Bourke said he carries around a referral letter in his wallet but discovered that it would not help him get admitted.

“I have a long history of heart disease. Two years ago I had a heart attack. I was given a letter to carry around with my current medication and medical history,” he told Liveline.

He said he was suffering the same symptoms that heralded his previous heart attack but the letter was rejected at the hospital.

“Four weeks ago I presented letter at local hospital and because the date was 11 months prior, I was told it was out of date and no-good,” Mr Bourke added.

He said he thought it was a great idea for people with similar conditions to carry around some form of history, but did not know it would be rejected.

“The letter was rejected. The time you’re losing its vital and the next step was money,” he said.

He said he needed a letter with the same date as the day he presented.

“I decided to go to GP because I said this was crazy. There was no bother with the new letter and I went into an assessment unit. But it was very stressful to have all that when you’re not feeling well,” he said.

“If I was getting a heart attack I would have been in a lot of trouble,” he said.

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