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Ex-Wicklow footballer 'lucky to be alive' after club-mates used defibrillator nine times to save his life

Don Jackman is back at home recovering after a sudden cardiac arrest.

Updated Thu 3:15 PM

FORMER WICKLOW FOOTBALLER Don Jackman says he’s “lucky to be alive” after going into sudden cardiac arrest at a club training session earlier this month.

don-jackman Don Jackman in action for Wicklow in 2007. Source: Tom Honan/INPHO

The Coolkenno GAA player was discharged from hospital on Monday and is now recovering at home after the incident.

Jackman can’t recall the events of the day when he suffered the health scare and says he has his clubmates to thank for their quick intervention to reach for a defibrillator when he collapsed.

They helped to stabalise his condition before an ambulance arrived to transfer him to St James’s Hospital.

They had to use it nine times before they got a response,” he tells The42 about his teammates’ repeated attempts to revive him.

“I’m lucky to be alive. I owe the lads a few pints, one of them is my best friend.

“I have absolutely no memory of that day, maybe even the days before it and the next two or three days after it. It’s all an absolute blur to me, I don’t remember one thing.

“I only know what I’ve been told, that I was talking away and things like that. They told my family that I wouldn’t wake up until maybe Monday or Tuesday but I woke up on Saturday after the Friday night I got the heart attack.

“One of the lads came in and just told me to wake up, and I just woke up.”

Jackman says he has no medical history of issues relating to his heart and explains that the only known cause of his cardiac arrest at present is “an irregular heartbeat”. He’s due to return to hospital in the next six weeks for a check-up to assess his progress.

Jackman underwent an operation to have defibrillator installed during his time in hospital, and apart from some mild soreness in his chest, he’s in good physical condition.

However, Jackman’s football days are now over. It’s an unfortunate reality to face but the former inter-county player, who played under Mick O’Dwyer, was coming to the end of his career anyway. He was able to line out for Wicklow for some 10 years, and is grateful for that reprieve at least.

mick-odwyer Source: James Crombie

“Well that’s it, I got to play all my football and do everything I could on a football field. The only good thing out of it is it didn’t happen when I was young, it happened now when I’m more or less finished.

I know it was my last year anyway [with the club] but I would have liked to have gone out on my own terms and not have to be put out this way.

“I suppose you probably think of things a little bit differently but I’m not the sort of lad that gets sentimental about things. I’m just going on the way I always went on.”

Jackman is a lorry driver and will be able to resume his work once he is fit to do so. He also has to wait for society to get to grips with coronavirus before getting back behind the wheel.

The training session where he suffered the cardiac arrest took place about a week before the government imposed a raft of measures to slow the spread of the virus. Things have certainly changed around the world, but Jackman’s home life is quite similar to what he experienced in hospital.

“It’s not that much different than being in hospital because you’re quarantined in the room watching telly and it’s much the same as it was in hospital. You can’t go anywhere or do anything. You’re glad to be home, don’t get me wrong but it’s very much like being in hospital.”

There’s been lots of goodwill extended towards Jackman since his cardiac arrest. Clubs from all over Wicklow have sent on their best wishes to him, while Mick O’Dwyer’s son Karl has also been in touch.

While processing the sudden end of his club football is certainly a blow, Jackman has plenty of highlights to reflect on. He enjoyed intermediate success with Coolkenno as well as winning a senior Wicklow title in 2011 when his club joined up with Shillelagh.

His main takeaway from all that has happened to him is the importance of having and properly maintaining defibrillators. 

It’s easy to overlook other health issues when the world is preoccupied with Covid-19, but Jackman is grateful to those who ensured that the defibrillator closest to him was fully functional at the time.

“It’s so important,” he stresses.

It’s great to have them sitting there but there’s no point in them being there if the batteries or pads are not working.

“The most important thing is that the people around you are able to work it. There’s no point having it there if someone can’t work it.”

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