Watch: Armagh man Colly's tears as he meets 999 heroes who saved his life after heart attack
An Armagh father-of-two who survived a massive heart attack has thanked the paramedics who saved his life.
Colly McBrien (50) had an emotional reunion with the crew who resuscitated him at Craigavon Area Hospital.
The Ambulance Service used the occasion yesterday to present awards to all those involved in treating Mr McBrien last year.
“It’s overwhelming,” Colly told them as he broke down and wept.
“I can’t put my thanks into words. They say they were just doing a job, but they saved my life. It’s superhero stuff.”
There was also a special award for his wife Majella who, with guidance from an emergency call handler, performed CPR on her husband in the crucial minutes while awaiting the arrival of the ambulance crew and community first responder.
Colly and Majella (46) had gone to bed early on September 30, 2018 after returning from a weekend away in Donegal.
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But at around 2am Majella woke to find her husband standing over their bed looking very unwell.
“I got up and went downstairs and that’s when I heard a thud,” she recalled. “When I came back up he had collapsed in the corner of the bedroom.
“I thought he was gone.”
The frantic supermarket manager and former Scout leader screamed out for their son Jordan (21) to wake and come upstairs.
“I grabbed his phone and dialled 999,” Majella said.
“They told me to start CPR. I kept going until the ambulance arrived and paramedics gave him shocks.”
Engineering student Jordan watched in horror as his mum tried to revive his dad, who showed no signs of life when help arrived.
“His eyes were black, his lips were blue and his face was grey and he was cold,” paramedic Philip McFadden said, admitting that he hadn’t expected Colly to survive.
Majella and Jordan stood in a bedroom and listened as paramedics administered adrenalin and used a defibrillator.
“We could hear them shocking him — it was very, very scary,” she recalled.
Moments later Colly’s heart began beating again.
After paramedics managed to get him out of his attic bedroom, the critically ill patient was taken to Craigavon Area Hospital.
Following a coronary angiogram, he was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast for an emergency operation.
“Every hour felt like 10,” Majella said.
“But by 6am he was in the Royal with the stent in and all. That’s only four hours.”
Majella, Jordan and daughter Kelly sat by Colly’s bedside in the intensive care unit while he had kidney dialysis.
“We feared he’d be brain damaged,” Majella added.
“They tried to take him off the ventilator after seven days but he was too weak. He stayed on it for 12 days.
“He could talk and recognise us all — it was unbelievable.”
Colly turned 50 two months before celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary in April, and Jordan recently marked his milestone 21st birthday. Majella said the big year of celebrations meant her husband had to recover.
“We couldn’t have done it without him, he had to be here,” Majella said.
Colly’s memories of the night he almost died are non-existent.
“I don’t even remember being in Donegal,” he revealed.
“I woke up in hospital and I didn’t know what was going on.
“I saw a nurse and I knew everything was going to be all right. It was overwhelming, but I knew I was going to see my family again.”
His only insight into the turmoil his family and friends endured comes from a book of memories which a nurse had encouraged visitors and staff to write in while Colly lay unconscious.
It now has a special place in the couple’s home.
“It was a couple of weeks after when I sat down and read it,” he said.
“I just broke down. I have a wonderful family and friends. It’s wonderful the way life is, there's a lot of good people out there.”
The lorry driver, who has now quit smoking and changed his lifestyle, was able to enjoy a Royal Caribbean cruise for his 50th birthday in February, and his health scare inspired the couple to go on a camper van trip around Ireland to mark their special anniversary.]
Mark Winter, first responder
The former photojournalist, who began volunteering with Armagh and Tyrone First Responders in 2014, reacted to a ‘purple’ call on October 1, 2018.
“It took me eight minutes to get there,” he explained.
“I just got on my knees and took over CPR. We took turns until we got a pulse.
“It took about 20 minutes to get a pulse, but it was weak.
“We kept going until we could get it a bit stronger.”
The 48-year-old, who has responded to over 120 calls in two years, said nothing beats the feeling of saving someone’s life.
“The last time I saw Colly his eyes were black — in my head he was gone,” Mr Winter said.
The aspiring emergency medical technician said he has no regrets about his career change.
Kerry Gooding, paramedic
The Manchester native, who has worked here for four years, recalled having to navigate her patient down a narrow staircase.
“We shocked him a couple of times and got him back but he was in an attic room.
“It was difficult to get him out but we did manage it.
“We strapped him to a spinal board so that we could put him at every angle.”
Gillian Furniss, paramedic
The paramedic with two decades of experience took control of the drugs after arriving on the scene.
“One of the other guys had gained IV access so I started giving him adrenalin and took over the role of resuscitation and timing the drugs,” Mrs Furniss said.
“It’s amazing to see Colly because often with cardiac arrest, if you get a pulse back they are likely to re-arrest.”
Philip McFadden, paramedic
The Ambulance Service worker with over 21 years’ experience was doing overtime when the call came in to attend to Colly.
“We found Majella doing effective CPR and we took over,” he recalled.
“Colly was showing no signs of life so we gained IV access to give him cardiac drugs and gave him pure oxygen.
“He was showing no signs of life for eight minutes, then his chest started rising.”