When Kevin McCloy tells you a defibrillator can save lives, he’s speaking from experience. The 38-year-old former Derry GAA captain and Lavey player almost died in 2014.
The Lavey man collapsed on the pitch at Owenbeg, outside Dungiven, just 10 minutes into the game against Magherafelt. Thanks to the work of doctors on the scene and a defibrillator “I was saved”, said Kevin.
“I was gone for about seven minutes,” he told the ‘Journal’.
“I don’t remember much about the incident at all. I was a bit nervous going into the game but, 10 minutes in, the heart started to race and go out of control and my heart just stopped. Three days later I woke up, out of a coma, in Altnagelvin.”
Almost three years on from that life-changing day, Kevin speaks candidly about his experience and the impact on his life.
“It’s frightening,” said Kevin.
10 minutes in, the heart started to race and go out of control and my heart just stopped. Three days later I woke up, out of a coma, in AltnagelvinFormer Derry captain, Kevin McCloy
Like most people, Kevin - who has played football all his life, 20 years at club level and 11 years at county level - never thought it would happen to him.
“But, unfortunately it did and I’ve lived to tell the tale,” he said.
The father-of-four was speaking as Eurospar in Dungiven unveiled its defibrillator, which is available 24 hours, seven days a week to the community.
“The more we have of these around the country the better,” said Kevin of the move. “Spar and Eurospar are taking great initiative in doing this. I admire anyone who does something like this. It’s amazing what they’re doing. It’s here in the town and accessible to everybody.”
Kevin is a huge champion of The Cormac Trust, which was set up in memory of the 24-year-old Tyrone footballer who died in his sleep in 2004 from a hidden heart condition.
“They were a big push in getting defibrillators on the GAA scene and now, across all the clubs, you would see very few without one. Now, they’re on the main thoroughfares and streets, and that gives everybody a better chance again.”
Kevin believes businesses and workplaces should have defibrillators.
“Anybody that has more than five people in their offices, or businesses should have a defibrillator on site. Everybody has measures in place for fire safety. There are far more people who die from a cardiac arrest each year than there is from fire, so this should be treated just as seriously,” he said.
Kevin’s football days on the pitch are over, something he’s finally come to accept. He’s keeping well and is getting the best of care.
“I was in London last week for an MRI so, hopefully, I’ll get positive results out of that. It’s tight going, but I think anyone with four children under the age of five is tired anyway,” he said, laughing.
“I had to stop playing football when I got my own defibrillator inserted; it’s too dangerous to play. It’s called an internal cardio defibrillator so it monitors my heart at all times. I’m monitored 24-7. I’ll have it for the rest of my days. Probably every 10 or 12 years it’ll need to be changed because of the battery power, but it’s a nice piece of insurance to have for my wife and family.”
Kevin said “only about five per cent of people survive a cardiac arrest”.
“I’m one of the lucky ones. By the same tone I played 20 years of senior football for the club so, for that to be taken away from you in one shot is heartbreaking. I think it was probably a year and a half before I accepted that but, as the wife told me, I wouldn’t have been playing the following year anyway!”
Dungiven Eurospar owner, Francie McNicholl said they were more than happy to get on board. “This initiative was actually started by Hendersons, who own Spar, so we were more than happy to join in and provide a life-saving piece of equipment that will be available to all of the community 24/7,” Mr. McNicholl said.
“This is the most up to date model, and we’re just happy we can do this. As Kevin McCloy said in emergencies like this every minute is vital.”
Eurospar manager, Ruairi McBride said while there are defibrillators in the town, they’re not accessible at all times.
“We wanted to provide that facility, and it’s something we are very passionate about. With a couple of local incidents that have happened, it’s something we thought was necessary in the community,” said Mr. McBride.
“We thought about fundraising for it, but decided we would go outright and purchase it and have it as soon as possible. It’s readily available, on the wall outside the shop, and has been registered with the NI Ambulance Service and can be accessed at any time.
“It’s important people know it’s here and, with so many different clubs in the area, you don’t know what could happen at any time. Also, being on the main route between Derry and Belfast you don’t know who might need it.”
Sinn Fein Colr. Sean McGlinchey said it’s important people know the defibrillator is available.
“We’ve a perfect example of why these defibrillators are so important. There’s no better person to launch it than Kevin McCloy,” said Colr. McGlinchey.
“Hopefully, we don’t have to use it, but it’s there to save lives.
“It’s good we have it.”