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13 May 2024

Young man saved after collapsing at Foundation session

Young man saved after collapsing at Foundation session

Seán Coakley was playing at a Foundation disability football session earlier this year when he collapsed mid-game.

Seán, 22, had a seizure on the pitch and collapsed, before having a cardiac arrest shortly after.

Becky, a student nurse, was watching the game and ran over to perform CPR on him, ultimately giving Seán enough time until the paramedics arrived to take him to hospital.

Seán, who has a moderate learning disability and epilepsy, has been coming to the Foundation’s inclusive disability football sessions for the last two years.

He trains every Saturday morning at the Foundation’s session in Falmer, and he gets involved in as many matches as he can.

“I got involved with the Foundation because I knew that I enjoyed football, and I heard that the BHAFC Foundation were running sessions that I could come to,” he told us.

“I’ve found it really supportive here. They’ve helped me with my technique and I’ve improved a lot as a footballer.

“My coaches have all been really warm and supportive and we have a laugh together, but also giving me great advice on how to get better.

“But I’ve also found it really supportive as a community, playing with other disabled football players. It’s actually quite an amazing community that they’ve created here.”

Seán’s mum, Joanna, says that the Foundation has been a blessing for Sean.

“The Foundation has been amazing for him, it’s really given him a lot of confidence and it’s allowed him to meet more people like him,” Joanna said.

“He’s always been sporty. He’s tried athletics, he’s a good runner, a good swimmer, and now he’s enjoying his football.

“The coaches are absolutely amazing. They just accept him for how he is, encourage him, and give him a lot of confidence. It just feels like he’s so welcome.”

Seán was playing a game in Lancing earlier this year, when suddenly he took a turn for the worse.

“I was playing the match, and it was getting near to the end. I started to feel strange, I looked over to the side of the pitch to my coaches, and shouted to them that I didn’t feel great.

“I was lowered to the ground, and then I had a seizure. People rushed over to me and took me inside, and then I had my cardiac arrest.”

Becky, who’s husband was managing the opposition team Worthing Inclusive, was on the sidelines when she saw Seán on the floor.

“I was chatting with my mates and then I saw Seán on the floor, which you obviously see a lot at a football game, but then he just didn’t move,” Becky said.

“So I bolted across to him on the pitch, and he had turned a horrible colour. I checked his pulse and there was nothing, so I started doing CPR.

“I don’t remember much of that day because I was so in the zone of doing compressions. I looked up once and just saw a wall of people surrounding us holding out their coats, to help respect Seán’s dignity.

“Then the paramedics turned up and it was done. It felt like forever at the time, but looking back it was probably only a few minutes.

“I got quite worried, I was thinking ‘did I do enough’, but he responded well and it’s so nice to see him up and about now.”

Mum Joanna received a call after Seán collapsed, so she rushed to the hospital.

She expressed her gratitude to Becky, and all those who supported Seán on the day.

“I got a phone call from A&E asking if we’re Seán’s next of kin, so we got in the car and drove straight to the hospital.

“We were told that he’d stopped breathing. He spent two weeks unconscious in ITU, and then another two weeks in hospital, so it was quite a long ordeal. But he seems to have bounced back well.”

The road to recovery for Seán has been long, but his mum is just pleased to see him well again.

“He’s lost a lot of weight and he’s quite wobbly, but generally he’s made a really miraculous recovery.

“Thanks to everyone who was there at the right time and did all the right things for him, it saved his life.”

Seán is recovering well, but he can’t wait to get back on the pitch

“I know that I shouldn’t rush back into football to be safe, so I’ve been taking it slow and carefully. Hopefully I’ll be back by September.

“Even if you have a medical or physical condition, it shouldn’t stop you from playing football, stop you from doing what you want to do.”

In the aftermath of Seán’s incident, the Foundation has now been given a free defibrillator.

Bob Whetton, a Nottingham Forest fan, had a cardiac arrest outside the Amex Stadium before the Albion game against Forest last October.

His life was saved by paramedics at the game who used a defibrillator to restart his heart.

Stryker, the company that manufactures the machines, donates a free defibrillator whenever one is used to save someone’s life.

Bob and Dr Rob Galloway decided between them to donate the machine to the Foundation, to be used at large sporting sessions.

Bob told us about why he thinks it’s important for defibrillators to be widely available.

“I owe my life to BHAFC. I was the seventh survivor of cardiac arrest at the Amex – a remarkable record of 100 per cent success.

“It is so important to have more defibrillators available in our communities, and also training in CPR so that volunteers can use them.”

Dr Galloway, stadium medical advisor and a trustee of the BHAFC Foundation, said: “It’s fantastic that the BHAFC Foundation has been given this defibrillator. Easy access to a defibrillator is so important, particularly in a sporting environment.

“Every year around 30,000 people in the UK have a cardiac arrest, with a survival rate of lower than 10 per cent. That could rise to nearly 70 per cent with ready access to defibrillators.

“Hopefully it isn’t needed, but it’s a comfort to know that the Foundation will have this defibrillator to hand if the worst happens.”

Find out more about the charity’s disability football programme here.


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