Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Home Life Features

Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Roisin Dorrian: 'I jumped into the ring and grabbed a defibrillator... my training just kicked in'

Published 05/05/2016

Life-saver: nurse Roisin Dorrian
Life-saver: nurse Roisin Dorrian
Family affair: Roisin Dorrian and daughter Eimear at the Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year awards ceremony last year, and (below) Sean McLaughlin
Sean McLaughlin
Well done: Nurse Roisin Dorrian receiving her 2015 Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year in the Health Sector award from Joanne Hayden of Linwoods

Ahead of the Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards 2016, Stephanie Bell talks to Co Down cardiac nurse Roisin Dorrian, whose quick thinking saved the life of Killough businesman Sean McLaughlin when he had a heart attack in a boxing ring

Cardiac nurse Roisin Dorrian is grateful that her training helped her to save the life of a local man when he collapsed with a heart attack during a charity event she was attending.

The winner of the Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year in Health Award 2015 is now a friend of amateur boxer, Sean McLaughlin (46), who has made a full recovery thanks to Roisin's quick thinking.

It is typical of Roisin that she is modest about the role she played in saving Sean's life - which she puts down to just doing her job.

Roisin was described as a nurse who will always go the extra mile when nominated for our Woman of the Year in Health award.

As someone who prefers to work quietly in the background, the honour took her completely by surprise last year. And, even a year on, she says she feels humbled to have received it: "I was absolutely delighted but I still think I am no different than a lot of other people who are saving lives every day - people like paramedics and the coast guard.

"I only did what a lot of other people would have done. And I am just thankful that I was there and able to do it.

"People have since said to me that I was off duty at the time when Sean collapsed, but at that moment my nursing training just kicked in."

While Roisin is modest, Killough businessman Sean has said that he owes his life to her.

A cardiac rehabilitation nurse at Downe Hospital, Roisin (47), was attending a fundraising boxing event for the Coney Island youth soccer team at a community centre in her home town of Ardglass in November 2014.

But, at the end of the second round, Sean collapsed in the ring.

Roisin had just arrived at the fight five minutes before Sean suffered a cardiac arrest.

First-aiders from the Order of Malta, who were on standby at the event, began CPR on the father-of-three.

Realising something was wrong, Roisin ran over to assist.

She recalls: "I knew something very serious had happened and I just dived in. I jumped into the ring and pulled a defibrillator that was provided by the Order of Malta and used it. He was unconscious at that stage. I did two lots of CPR and shocked him once. By the time the ambulance arrived he was beginning to come round.

I am very proud that I was able to help. I just did what I am trained to do."

Roisin used the defibrillator to restart Sean's heart, while hundreds of stunned spectators looked on in shock.

She recalls: "In that situation your adrenalin takes over. I was nervous as anybody that night, but I just knew I had to help and away I went."

Sean was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital before being transferred to the Ulster Hospital. He has since recovered from triple bypass surgery, with a little help from his guardian angel.

Ironically, the woman who saved his life was also tasked with caring for Sean after his by-pass surgery. And the couple and their families have since become friends.

Roisin says: "Living in the same area, Sean was referred to me after his surgery.

"He completed a rehabilitation programme with me. It was lovely to be able to give him that follow up care and I think it was reassuring for him."

And she continues to be involved in his care, adding: "He still comes to me for check-ups. I see him and his lovely wife Sharon outside of work as well. We move in the same circles but didn't know each other before."

And the McLaughlin family are grateful for Roisin. She says: "At Christmas for the past two years they have sent me beautiful flowers which were just lovely."

Sean has since bought a defibrillator out of his own money for the community centre where he took ill. He has also helped promote the signs of early heart attacks through the local Chest Heart and Stroke Association.

Roisin, a mum of two teenagers, is grateful that she was there to help.

Roisin has wanted to be a nurse since she was a young child. She started her career as a staff nurse in coronary care in the Downe Hospital where she worked for 18 years before moving to cardiac rehabilitation in 2006.

Her job involves steering cardiac patients through the recovery journey and back to normal life.

Last year, after receiving her Belfast Telegraph Award, she also graduated from Queen's University with a certificate in specialist practice which she had spent two years studying for.

Roisin explains: "It was a very special year for me and lots of people congratulated me on winning the Woman of the Year award.

"The Trust announced it on our intranet, which I found very embarrassing, but it was lovely.

"I had no idea what to expect at the awards and it was a wonderful night.

"I was totally overwhelmed to win the award. People who know me well will know that I love my job but I like to remain very much in the background.

"I was very honoured to be nominated and absolutely stunned to win. I believe many people save lives everyday, not just nurses.

The experienced nurse says: "With Sean I didn't really have time to think, I just jumped in when I knew there was something wrong.

"It was very humbling to attend the awards and hear the stories of the other nominees and winners, and when you hear them you just think everyone deserves an award."

Speaking at last year's awards, Sean said: "I owe my life to Roisin. If it hadn't been for her I wouldn't be here. At the boxing match I felt unwell but decided to fight on.

"The next thing I knew I had woken up in the Royal Victoria Hospital. It is unbelievable that I am still here. I've been told I was dead for five to seven minutes, so I really do owe Roisin my life."

Sean has only got involved with the fundraiser two weeks prior to the event after someone else has pulled out. He had lost two stones before the boxing bout and had been training regularly in the gym

Sean and his wife, Sharon joined Roisin at the awards and were at her table when the announcement was made that she was the Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year in Health.

The couple were overjoyed for Roisin who said afterwards she was "very honoured and very humbled" to have won.

Nominating couldn’t be easier

Each of the nominations must be supported by a citation which should not be more than 500 words. Citations should also include your name, address and daytime telephone number, and should arrive not later than noon on Friday, May 13.

Send them to: Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year, Belfast Telegraph, 124 Royal Avenue, Belfast, BT1 1EB, by email to: or enter online at

For further information, contact events consultant Sarah Weir at JPR, tel 028 9076 0066 or email

Tickets cost £60 plus vat (£72) per person or £600 plus vat (£720) for a table of 10.

Payment can be made by credit or debit card, cash or cheque.

Belfast Telegraph

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting?

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph