From furniture mover to life-saver — a young Nat Ross worker has been hailed an “absolute hero” for using CPR to save a woman’s life.
On the first anniversary of her near-death experience, the family of Ita Winston, from Galway, said they will be forever grateful to Emmet O’Sullivan for saving her life.
Ita’s husband, Barney, said if it wasn’t for Emmet’s quick thinking and CPR that morning, his wife, a mother of three and grandmother of four, would have died.
“She had no pulse and was turning blue. The paramedics said if it wasn’t for the CPR, she wouldn’t have made it. Emmet deserves such credit. He is such a wonderful person,” he said.
“He’s a very quiet guy and paise rubs off him very easily. But for Ita, this was a life or death situation.”
Emmet, 26, from Gurranabraher in Cork, who works with the Cork-based moving and storage firm Nat Ross, was on a furniture moving job in Galway with colleagues, Mark Murray, who lives in Fermoy, and CJ O’Sullivan, from Castleisland, on August 27, 2015 when they heard calls for help from a neighbouring house.
Ita, who was 67 at the time and who had never been sick a day in her life, was minding her grandchildren in her daughter Aoife’s house when she collapsed from long QT syndrome — an interruption of the electrical charge in her heart.
Emmet and his colleagues rushed to help, and Emmet, who had taken a 90-minute CPR course at St Vincent’s GAA club in Cork just weeks earlier, began compressions, and an ambulance was called.
“I put her in the recovery position and could see that she was turning blue,” he said.
“I told Mark to ring an ambulance and the operator came on the phone and told me to do compressions until paramedics arrived.
“I did about 15 compressions, and Ita gave a big gasp of air. The operator told me to keep going but I was afraid in case I’d break her chest bone.
“When I slowed down the CPR, I could feel her breathing going down again. To be honest, it didn’t look good at the time.
“I don’t know what came over me, maybe it was adrenalin or tunnel vision. But I knew I had to keep going, this is what I have to do, nothing else mattered.”
Despite tiring, Emmet continued CPR for almost 15 minutes, with help from CJ, until Mark flagged the paramedics down.
They used a defibrillator to shock Ita’s heart up to seven times and rushed her in critical condition to hospital.
Paramedics told Emmet later that if it hadn’t been for his CPR, she wouldn’t have made it.
Last night, he played down his role in the emergency but said: “It took a while to sink in afterwards what had happened — that a simple act can save someone’s life. It was surreal to be honest, to know that you’ve saved someone’s life.”
Both Emmet and Barney agreed to share the story to highlight the importance of learning CPR.
Emmet said: “I didn’t think I would ever have to use it. But to think that a 90-minute or two-hour course, two hours out of your life, could save someone else’s life — it should encourage everyone to do it.”
Barney said he, his wife and their family could never thank Emmet, his colleagues and the paramedics, John Dillane and Seamie Hayes, enough, and he encouraged people to learn CPR.
Emmet, who is celebrating with his partner, Anita, the birth of their first child, Riley-Ann, five weeks ago, said he is delighted that Ita has made a full recovery.
The Winstons have now forged a strong bond of friendship with Emmet and his colleagues, and with the paramedics.
Barney said Ita’s near-death experience and her full recovery has changed their outlook on life, and makes them cherish every moment together, with family and friends, and the retired teachers are enjoying life to the full.
“The bucket list has been emptied. We’ve travelled a lot over the last few months and we’re now looking forward to Cróna’s marriage in December,” Barney said.
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