13 Aug 2022

‘Without the defibrillator, we would have lost him’ - Derry man’s life saved after sudden heart attack

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The wife of a 43-year-old Derry man who suffered a cardiac arrest said her husband owes his life to a defibrillator bringing him back. And they are now raising funds to have one accessible to the public in their area. Just over a month ago, life began like any other ordinary day for Ashlene McClelland, her husband, Darren and their two children, Ethan, 15, and Caitlin, 13. Darren, who liked to keep fit by playing football four times a week, headed off for a game with the lads while Ashlene went out for a walk and the kids had gone out with their Granny. However, Darren felt unwell when he was playing football with pains in his chest and arm. Despite being advised by his team mates to sit on the side-lines to see if it would pass, Darren decided to go on home. The rest of the day that May 31 was to be the beginning of a journey the family will never forget. Ashlene said that her mother had arrived back home with the children first. Darren was sitting outside their home on the garden bench and Ashlene’s mother later told her that she knew he was very unwell by looking at him. She offered to take him to the hospital but said he wanted shower first and see how he felt. Ashlene said: “Darren walked upstairs and opened the shower door and just collapsed and basically died. “My mother and the children heard him fall. Ethan rang an ambulance and Caitlin rang me as I was just coming up the Culmore Road. She said he had fallen and he wasn’t moving. “I got to the house in two or three minutes and 999 was on speaker phone telling us to check if he was breathing. “I’m a teacher and we get trained in CPR every year, so I just started doing CPR.” Ashlene said that, amid the chaos, one of Darren’s football team mates who had been worried about him called at the house. “The ambulance had not arrived and Ashlene asked her son to run to a nearby doctor’s house but he wasn’t at home. However, the doctor’s son rang him and he arrived 8 – 10 minutes later as the ambulance arrived. “When they arrived, they told me to keep going with the CPR,” said Ashlene. “Then they brought up the defibrillator and told us to sit outside while they worked with him. We were sitting outside 40 minutes before they got him back and they had to give his seven shocks of the defibrillator.” Darren was rushed to hospital where they discovered there had been a blockage to his heart and a stent had to be put in to allow blood flow. “They wheeled him past us and there were about six staff all around him and machines everywhere, it was heart-breaking, we just wanted to know if he was going to be okay.” Ashlene was later told that Darren had gone into cardiac arrest for a second time and, again, a defibrillator brought him back 10 minutes later. However, there was still an agonising wait to see if Darren would regain consciousness. “He was on life support for nine days and on the eighth day the doctors called me, his Mum and sisters who were there and told us he was taking too long to wake up, that he should have been wakened by now,” she said. “They told us that they had to send a brain scan for assessment to Belfast but that they really felt that he may be severely brain damaged if he was to wake up. “The doctor said that they could only keep him on life support for 12 days and that the next step would normally be a tracheotomy but that, because of the blood thinners Darren was on for his heart, he would die on the operating table.” Ashlene said she never told the children about this conversation with the doctor as they were already so worried but, later when the children were with her, the same doctor came and told the family there was some good news. “They read the scan in Belfast and said that the inactivity in the brain was down to the sedation he was on in life support and Darren woke up on the Saturday,” she said. “We were told that he may be delirious for up to a week after he woke up. “He couldn’t walk or talk, he didn’t know he was married or had children – it was absolutely awful. “It was a horrendous seven or eight days but he was taken out of the High Dependency Unit and brought to the Coronary Care Unit to be assessed. “No one could believe how much he had come on over the weekend.” Ashlene said that Darren has been making a ‘miraculous’ recovery and is undergoing speech therapy, physiotherapy and is almost ‘back to himself’. She said that they owe his life to the use of the defibrillator and this has spurred her on to raise money to have one installed for public access close to their home. “We could have been doing CPR forever, we needed the ambulance with that defibrillator,” said Ashlene. “We only found out later that he only had a five per cent chance of survival outside a hospital having a cardiac arrest. “So, I’ve set up a fundraising page to raise £2,000; a defibrillator costs around £1,500 and £500 for the box to store it in for community use.” Ashlene said she wants to have the defibrillator near their Portlock Place home, just off the Culmore Road. “I want the public to actually be aware how important this was in bringing him back to us, he spent 20 days in hospital but we are so glad that he’s back home with us now and he’s doing so well. “This is a life saving device. “My husband would be dead now if he didn't have the life-saving shocks from the defibrillator from the ambulance and my two children (aged 15 and 13) would be without a father. “These past weeks have been the most traumatic time in my family's life. We never want another family to experience what we have. “All Darren needed was one stent to open the blockage in his artery - such a simple procedure - but without the defibrillator we would have lost him. We thank God that our story ended so well. “I would also like to thank all the doctors and nurses in the Intensive Care Unit, High Dependency Unit and the Coronary Care Unit – they were all brilliant.” If you would like to contribute to Ashlene’s Go Fund Me page to raise money for a defibrillator, you donate online by visiting PICTURED ABOVE - Ashlene and her husband Darren.

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