London hurler ‘incredibly fortunate’ to be alive after heart attack
Kilburn Gaels captain blacked out during life-threatening cardiac arrest during match
Brian Regan. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
London GAA hurler Brian Regan has described an extraordinary sequence of coincidences that helped him cheat death after he collapsed with a heart attack while playing a match.
The Kilburn Gaels captain said “someone was looking down” on him after he blacked out during a life-threatening cardiac arrest on the pitch during a senior hurling championship tie with Robert Emmetts last September.
“I remember most of the game, I can still tell you what happened . . . then at one stage my memory kind of stopped,” he said.
“From the last thing I remember, I went down about two minutes after that and everything from then is a blackout really, until I woke up.”
When he came around, as well as his teammates asking if he recognised them, there was a team of nurses beside him preparing him for CPR. They had just happened to be in the stand watching the game and ran onto the pitch when he dropped.
In another stroke of luck, his friend, fellow Galway man and doctor Stephen Lambert was on hand, and had just spent the previous few days doing a refresher course in CPR.
“It was unbelievably lucky,” recalls Regan. “It turns out the next day I needed CPR — little did Stephen know.”
In a further remarkable turn of fate, an ambulance happened to be in the area after it was called to someone who broke their leg at a nearby swimming pool. The paramedics immediately detoured to the more serious heart attack.
“Someone was looking down on me that day,” said Regan.
It turned out a defibrillator at McGovern Park wasn’t working and the ambulance got to him just in time with a working device.
“As it shocked me I jumped two feet off the ground,” he told RTÉ radio. “I don’t remember it, but that is what I have been told.”
Rushed to Harefield Hospital — a nearby hospital that also happens to be the largest specialist heart centre in the UK — Regan underwent several tests and was discovered to have a condition called dilated cardiomyopathy.
“My heart doesn’t pump enough blood around the rest of my body,” he said. “They are not sure that caused the cardiac arrest . I have been back to the hospital a lot of times and I’m doing blood tests but they don’t know yet what caused it — they are still trying to figure that out.”
In the meantime, he doesn’t think he will be allowed play hurling again, but is exercising on a gym bike and hopes to back running soon.
Recalling the death of his school friend Cathal Forde of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome while training for Kilburn in 2012, Regan said he feels “incredibly fortunate”.
“I’d be saying what did I do to deserve to be so lucky to survive, and that everything worked out, with the ambulance and that, the way it happened to me,” he said.
“Thank God the nurses and Stephen were there, and had that experience and knew what they were doing.”