Belfast Telegraph

'Miracle' rescue after GAA fan has heart attack at game

By Donna Deeney

The life of a spectator at a GAA match was saved at the weekend because the club had a defibrillator which was used to resuscitate the man after he collapsed.

John Dobbins was on the sidelines watching his team Steelstown play Faughanval when it is thought he suffered a heart attack.

He is now recovering thanks to a series of “miracles” including the presence of doctors, a defibrillator and a passing ambulance.

Mr Dobbins received medical assistance from two doctors within seconds of collapsing.

They were at the match as spectators and used the club's defibrillator to keep him alive until an ambulance arrived.

Michael Dobbins, speaking on behalf of John, paid tribute to those who saved his life, saying: “I would like to extend sincere thanks to all who came to John’s assistance when he took ill at Sunday’s game at Faughanvale.

“I would like to thank Faughanvale GAA for their quick response and action to the situation.

“A special mention must be given to Jane Carey, John and Artie Kearney, Drs Lee Casey, Dave Flanagan and Mark McCarron, who worked relentlessly with John and kept him alive until the ambulance arrived.

“Because of these people and everyone else who helped, John is in a comfortable and stable condition and making good progress.

Faughanvale club chairman, Eamonn King said every sporting facility should have this life- saving piece of medical equipment.

Mr King said: “We have had a defibrillator at our club for about five years and not every club has them yet, but if ever there was proof that this particular piece of equipment can make a difference in a life-and-death situation then this was it.

“I was on the pitch on Sunday when Mr Dobbins collapsed and the second we realised how serious the situation was, our emergency plan kicked in.

“Miraculously there were two doctors attending the match and another girl with medical training and they were able to administer CPR and, although we do have club members trained in using the defibrillator, on this occasion naturally enough it was the doctors who used it.

“By another miracle, while I was on the phone calling for an ambulance one drove past in the direction of Limavady and I asked if there was any possibility that it could be diverted if it wasn't on a major emergency.

“Within a few short minutes the ambulance had turned around and was with us and Mr Dobbins was on his way to Altnagelvin Hospital.

“I know defibrillators are expensive. They cost about £1,000 each, but what price do you put on a life? We keep our defibrillator fully charged and easily accessible, not just when there is a match but so that it can be used by anyone.”

“If there is one at the club and it is never needed then that is great, but if you do need it and you have one available then that is even better.

“I would say Mr Dobbins' family are glad Faughanvale GAA Club had one, but this should be the case in every single sporting facility.”

Dr Dave Flanaghan, Chairman of the Steelstown Club Brian Og’s, backed Mr King's called for all sports facilities to have the life-saving machines.

He said: “There is no doubt in my mind that the defibrillator helped save John’s life, coupled with the efforts of the Faughanvale members who recognised the value of having trained stewards and maintained equipment.

“The GAA have been very proactive in providing defibrillators and training people to use them and I would recommend all sporting facilities follow their lead.”

Following a similar situation at one of Derry City Council's leisure facilities last month, the council is now costing providing defibrillators and training staff to use them.

A decision is expected to be made within weeks.


An automated external defibrillator or AED is a portable electronic device that automatically diagnoses the potentially life-threatening cardiac arrests in a patient. Defibrillation consists of delivering a therapeutic dose of electrical energy to the affected heart with a device called a defibrillator.

This stops the arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, allowing the heart to re-establish an effective rhythm. A majority of GAA clubs now keep a defibrillator on their premises since an awareness campaign following the sudden death of Tyrone player Cormac McAnallen in 2004.

Belfast Telegraph

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