'Our son is alive today because of a massive miracle' - mum-of-three describes how her son suddenly collapsed in school yard
The family of a nine-year-old boy who was saved by a defibrillator after he collapsed in the school playground have called on the devices to be brought into all Irish schools.
Deirdre and Steve Kelly’s son Sean was playing with his friends in Gaelscoil Ros Eo in Rush, Co Dublin on September 4 when he suddenly collapsed.
Sean, who was a healthy, sporty boy with no previous health complaints, stopped breathing in the playground. He was brought back to life by his quick-thinking school principal Tim O Tuachaigh who used a defibrillator from the local GAA club.
Today, Deirdre told Independent.ie: “I dropped the kids to school at 8.30am and I was in work and a few hours later I got a phone call to say he had dropped in the school yard.”
“It was surreal at the time. Obviously you don’t expect to drop your kids off to school and expect to get this news.”
“It’s just nonsensical; it doesn’t make any sense. He was literally standing in the yard beside his friends and he just dropped.”
“He was perfectly healthy; he had no underlying health conditions, and he played sport. We were blessed with the people that were there at the time.”
“He had never fainted. He played on an under-nine GAA team, and he played a match on the Saturday before it happened. I don’t think we’d ever had him at the GP, I don’t think he'd ever had an antibiotic.”
The defibrillator had been donated to the local GAA club next door by the Apache pizza company.
“The teachers reacted extremely fast and started CPR almost immediately. The principal called for the defibrillator, luckily the school at the moment is on a temporary site, it is on the grounds of the GAA club, and the principal knew the defibrillator was there and they basically used it to bring him back.”
“I think from what I was told by the principal that they had to use it twice if not three times. He never woke up, but as they were doing the defibrillator the emergency services turned up.”
“He never woke up from the defibrillator, or during the hospital transfer, he never came around. But the defibrillator had restarted the heart as the emergency services were arriving.”
“My husband was there for this because he works in the local area. I was on the phone to him. I wouldn’t have gotten to the school quick enough so I said I’d meet them at the hospital. I was in the hospital waiting for the ambulance to arrive for around 20 minutes.”
“The first time I saw him he was in the emergency department of Temple Street hospital getting treatment by several doctors.”
“You’re in complete shock when you get the phone call, but once you’re with him in the hospital, your complete focus is on him and you don’t get to process it at the time. He has two sisters and you have to think about them as well.”
Finallly, Deirdre and Steve got a phone call early on the Thursday morning from staff in the intensive care unit in Crumlin Hospital to say that Sean was awake.
“They kept him asleep in Crumlin, just to give him a rest after all that had happened to his body. After three days they started to bring him around, and on the Thursday morning he woke up.”
“He asked for us when he woke up. It was in the ICU at 4am or 5am in the morning. They rang us straight away to tell us that he was asking for us.”
She added: “He recognised us straight away. It was the best moment in the world.”
Deirdre and Sean are urging the Irish government to install life-saving defibrillators in every Irish school.
“I don’t care which Government department deals with it. I would just say, don’t let it happen that there’s a bad outcome now that you know that a good outcome could happen.”
“At the end of the day, we have our son, we cannot ask for more.”
“We’re eternally thankful to everyone involved in Sean’s care, the teachers in the school, the two members of the public who assisted at the time, and to all the medical staff that took care of him.”
Sean has been diagnosed with a heart condition, and can no longer play contact sports.
“He’s doing well. He’s a really good kid. He has adapted to his new lifestyle. He has a heart condition. He is exercise restricted, he can’t play contact sports at all. He has other interests, his music and his art. He’s a good kid. We’re getting used to his new lifestyle.”
“They have diagnosed his condition, but it’s more from our perspective that we have to figure out what he can and can’t do. As an adult you can decide what you can and can’t do, you know when you’re tired and need to rest, but he’s only nine so we have to do that for him.”
“He knows what’s happened. He knows he was in hospital; he remembers being in hospital. He asks questions about it sometimes and we try to answer him honestly.”
But she added: “He’s a very easy going kid and he’s getting on with it to be fair. I don’t think he can necessarily grasp the massive miracle that happened. He doesn’t necessarily grasp the seriousness of it.”