Don Jackman thankful for life-saving defibrillator
By John Harrington
Former Wicklow county footballer, Don Jackman, is only alive today because his club, Coolkenno, have a fully operational Automated External Defibrillator (AED) on their club grounds.
He is one of 42 people in Ireland who had their lives saved by AEDs located in GAA grounds and knows he was very lucky that action could be taken very quickly when he collapsed at a club training session in March last year.
Five of his club-mates - Steven Cushe, Jim Cushe, Colin Murphy, Shaun Smith and Cathal Rossiter - all thankfully responded promptly to use the defibrillator to resusicate Jackman.
“That's it, I was very fortunate not only that the club had a defibrillator, but that it had been serviced and so was working as it should be,” Jackman told GAA.ie
“The lads who used it had a bit of cop on too. They acted very quickly which is the most important thing in a situation like that.”
Jackman has no recollection of the moment he collapsed at training.
His memory of that day, the week leading up to it, and the four or five days subsequently have all been wiped, so his team-mates had to tell him exactly what happened.
“It was a club training session and our goalkeeper wasn't there that night and apparently I said to the lads that I'd go in goal because I'm getting auld now so I said I'd take it handy and go in goal,” says Jackman.
“The boys were saying I was pulling off all sorts of saves from shots as we were warming up and then we went to play a game and I walked out with a couple of the lads and just fell to the ground.
“Some of the boys thought I was acting the maggot at first but then they saw that I wasn't messing.
“So they very quickly ran to get the defibrillator and the good thing about the defibrillator is that it tells you exactly how to use it.
“It took nine shocks from the defibrillator before they were able to get me back, so I was very lucky really.”
You can’t keep a good man down, and Jackman quickly made a full recovery from his cardiac arrest.
“Basically they found that I had an irregular heartbeat, so they inserted one of those small defibrillators on my heart,” he says.
“Within a month I was back moving around and feeding a few cattle and things like that.
“I didn't play last year but I think I'm going to go back to play this year. I was quite lucky last year because when I came out of hospital it was the week that everything closed up for the first lockdown.
“It gave me more of a chance to recover and get back right. We were back then training in May and I was in better form by then and I went up training for a while.
“I didn't do anything at first, but as the Championship wore on I got back in to doing the warm-up and a few ball drills and just back in tipping around without doing anything too serious.
“We actually got to the county final last year, which was great. I didn't play myself, but I'm thinking that I'll go back this year.
“It would be great if we could go on now and win the Intermediate Championship this year.”
Jackman’s near-death experience has made him a powerful advocate for the GAA’s Community Heart Programme which encourages every club in the country to A.C.T. now and ensure they can avail of a defibrillator that is ACCESSIBLE, CHARGED and that there are enough TRAINED rescuers within the Club to operate it.
The programme allows clubs to fundraise for new AEDs, which are connected to the internet via the mobile phone network. This means the AED will check itself and notify designated club members via email if there is an issue that needs to be addressed, such as the battery or pads needing to be changed.
The programme isn’t just for clubs who don’t have a defibrillator, it’s for clubs who may have one that’s past its life expectancy of eight to ten years.
Can you imagine how Don Jackman’s friends and team-mates would have felt if they discovered in the worst way possible that the Coolkenno defibrillator was no longer operational?
If you think your club would be interested in taking part in the Community Hearts Programme, Jackman has a simple message for you.
“I wouldn't even be thinking about it, I'd be going ahead and getting it,” he says.
“I wouldn't be here today if we didn't have one in the club that had been checked regularly to make sure it was in good working order.
“In situations like mine, your only chance of survival is if you have people there at the time who can do the CPR and have a defibrillator close to hand.
“I'm one of the very, very lucky ones, and my story is proof that having a working defibrillator in your GAA club can save a life.”
Where can a Club find out more about the Community Heart Programme?
Communication and a registration link to the Community Heart Programme has already been sent to all GAA Club secretaries. Club members can find out more information and look up their club to place a donation at: https://savealife.communityheartprogram.com/gaa
What happens during and after registration? The Club will set their fundraising target during the registration process based on the number of AED units that they wish to purchase.
Once this target is hit, the AED unit(s) will be delivered and installed within approximately 6 weeks. Heart Safety Solutions (the supplier) will make direct contact with the Club to arrange.