When Orlagh Deighan got a frantic phone call to say her six-year-old son Sean had collapsed it was as if time had stopped.
The only thing that mattered was getting to her little boy.
The 33-year-old mum of three, who lives between Foreglen and Claudy, was in Dungiven last Thursday when just after noon she received the life changing call.
Sean was with dad, Darragh Carton, at his house in Feeny. They’d had a ball, making the most of the last of the good weather before going back to school. They had run outside to retrieve a ball and, as Sean turned to run back into the house, Orlagh said they think he seemed to lose his balance and fell over, banging his head.
When Orlagh got to the house Sean was on a bed - his eyes fixed, his body lifeless.
Darragh and his partner, Sharon Stewart, had taken it in turns to perform CPR on Sean.
When Orlagh arrived, she took over. She was never so thankful for her CPR training as part of her job with North West Recruitment in Ballykelly.
“When I went in the door Sean was on the bed. The minute I saw him I thought ‘he’s dead’, but I kept going because you have to. I think I would still be going until now. I went into overdrive. I thought back to my training and my trainer’s face - Avril - was in my head. It was like your life flashes in front of you and I could see what I was supposed to do. I knew he was on the bed and he shouldn’t have been on the bed, because I had to push harder to allow for the bed to go down, and then I was breathing in him. My arms were getting tired and I knew ‘just don’t stop’, ‘just don’t stop’. I was screaming, ‘where is the ambulance?’ It was chaos more or less,” said Orlagh.
“I think, between the three of us, we worked on Sean for between 20 and 25 minutes before the Rapid Response paramedic arrived, and he was brilliant. I don’t know how it happened but he was on a day off and he came in and got us focused and put things in control. He was really brilliant. He got Sean’s pulse going, and then the doctor came over. The police and the ambulance were there, and even the priest, Fr Eamon Graham, was there and Sean got anointed before he left. I’m not sure what happened in the ambulance, I think they might have lost him but, the point is, the wee man is still here after all that.”
Sean was stabilised in Altnagelvin Hospital and subsequently moved to the Intensive Care Unit in Belfast.
“His treatment is first class. I cannot say a bad word about the treatment he is getting,” said Orlagh.
Orlagh is a firm believer that every parent should be trained in CPR.
“I said to my partner, Martin (O’Hara), I knew what to do and I was traumatised, and I knew I did my best, but parents should know what to do,” she said.
“I say to all my friends, ‘you might think it will never happen to you’, but my first wain was ill and I thought I had my share of bad luck, but I never expected a healthy wain to drop dead with a heart attack. That could happen to anyone and people need to be trained. There are classes out there and, even if you have to pay money, is it not worth paying money and learning to save your wain if something happens?”
The past week has been a blur for Orlagh and the family. Days have rolled into one and Orlagh said no one can believe what has happened.
“Sean couldn’t touch his nose on Tuesday, but on Wednesday he was feeding himself for a few minutes,” said Orlagh. “It hasn’t hit me yet. I went out for a walk yesterday and an ambulance shot out with the sirens on and it brought it all back but ... Sean was perfectly healthy, a healthy wee boy. We just can’t believe it has actually happened. We can’t believe he has come out of it. We can’t see an end to it. We’re taking it minute by minute.”
Orlagh said there is a long road ahead for her son - tests and possibly surgery - but they’re taking it slowly.
“Sean is a unique wee boy, always pleasant, just a brilliant wain, never any bother with him. He loves ‘Frozen’, singing ‘Let it Go’, and dancing, and loves the girls,” said Orlagh, who said he is “clean mad” to see his school friends at St Colmcille’s PS, Claudy, which Orlagh said plans to fundraise to buy a defibrillator.
Orlagh said the support has been overwhelming - constant phone calls, messages of support and even strangers offering to help, including people from all over the world, America, Australia and Scotland.
“It’s unbelievable. There are good people out there,” said Orlagh. “We know there is a long road ahead of us but, no matter what’s ahead of us, we’re just glad he is here.”
Orla wants to say a massive ‘thank you’ to the medical staff who have cared for Sean, all the services that have assisted them and to everyone who has sent good wishes.
“I never prayed as hard in my life, and I was so glad to hear people were praying for him because, in my eyes, it was the only thing that was going to bring him out of it. I begged God to give me my wain back, and he did. Sean shouldn’t be here,” said Orlagh.
“We were sitting there on that third day and thinking ‘we could have been burying our wain today’, that’s how well he has come round. He’s starting to feed himself and he’s now walking, with help. That’s brilliant. I just can’t wait to see him home and back with his family and brothers Cathan and Martin.”