Heart attack boxer is still fighting to regain his health after being floored by bypass setback
A father-of-three who was saved by an off-duty nurse when he suffered a heart attack in the boxing ring has revealed he has experienced and survived a "rollercoaster year" and has undergone further life-saving heart operations.
Speaking almost 12 months after his heart stopped beating for five minutes during a charity boxing match, Sean McLaughlin said he had believed triple-bypass surgery would have "solved" his health problems.
The 45-year-old Downpatrick man, who has a love of sport, underwent the major operation just before Christmas. Afterwards he, wife Sharon daughters Erin (22), Shannon (20) and Kerry (18) hoped for a quick recovery.
He explained: "I couldn't do a thing after the bypass, it was soul-destroying. You wanted to get back to the gym and do what you were doing before, but life changed and it hit me for six, it definitely did. I thought the bypass was going to solve everything."
But in June Sean, who runs an engineering company, experienced more chest pains, after which it emerged he needed four stents inserted into his heart. He is also set to return to hospital in December for another procedure.
"I just knew in myself that something wasn't right," he said. "I had my blood pressure taken and they knew that something was wrong, so they sent me immediately to the A&E in Downpatrick. I was then transferred to the Royal in Belfast."
But Sean, who now takes eight tablets a day to treat his heart disease, said he had not let his health problems stop him from living life to the full.
He added: "I asked the doctors' advice and they said yes (he could exercise). I still can't go to the gym, but small jogs are great. It makes me feel great when I finish a run - you feel that you have achieved something.
"I'm lucky to be alive. I do remember feeling nervous before the boxing match. I wasn't looking forward to it, but I'm glad I did it because if it had have happened anywhere else it would have had a different outcome."
Downe Hospital cardiac rehabilitation nurse Roisin Dorian, who won a Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year award for her efforts, stepped in to help Sean when she saw first aiders performing CPR on him on the night.
"I'm still friendly with Roisin and see her all the time," Sean said. "I'm very grateful for what she did that night.
"The thought of dying and leaving my three daughters and wife behind was just unbearable. It's that thought that has made me determined in my recovery."
Sean was speaking to support the Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke Association, which is funding research that means heart problems could be spotted during a visit to the optician.
"The fact that we could soon be able to walk into an optician, sit down, and get a simple eye test to determine possible early risk of heart disease is incredible," he added.
To support NI Chest Heart & Stroke call 028 9032 0184.