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Saving a life in Clonbur

South of the border

Willie McHugh

THE girl who administrates the Clonbur Pride Facebook page tagged a reflection titled ‘A Lot Will Happen on the Day I Die’ as one of the many tributes to the late Father Micheál Mannion, PP of Clonbur and Cornamona.
A prophetic musing it turned out to be. Because something truly amazing happened at Fr Micheál’s interment service in Clonbur Church.
Fr Fergal Cunnane was leading the congregation through the preamble of Father Mannion’s requiem when Fr Mick Coen of Kilconly, and a member of The Pallottine Order, suffered a massive heart attack within feet of the altar.
He fell so fast as to suggest the striking was fatal.
Realising something way beyond serious was amiss, Fr Cunnane suspended proceedings.
The Clonbur emergency response plan kicked in automatically and instantly. Nobody was in charge. No need. Those who rushed to his aid knew exactly what needed doing. All volunteers were fully au fait with their manoeuvres in the drill.
Within milliseconds someone arrived with a defibrillator. The instructions the user friendly contraption was issuing were clearly audible in a Clonbur house of worship. There’s a foreboding echo to its tutoring.
Frightening too for those of us hardly equipped with first aid knowledge enough to remove a thorn. Fr Stephen Farragher, reciting the rosary, muffled its sounding somewhat. The defibrillator screen telegraphed a ‘no pulse’ message.
Maeve O’Donnell-Macaleenan and Cathleen Moran, among others, continued performing what seemed like futile efforts to revive him. Jimmy Kyne’s hands were tiring such was the length he was holding aloft a suspended liquid drip containing a solution stronger than water. Space was needed and lads like Michael Gannon, Joe Dolan and Eoin Burke cleared out a corner of the church ejecting every sinner seated there including the choir.
It mirrored the biblical parable of tax collectors ejected from the temple. And like happened in the synagogue they moved and upturned pews in Clonbur to make room and the personal belongings left behind in a hurried exit lay strewn on seats and even on the floor.
The sound of a helicopter landing in Clonbur GAA pitch resonated eerily off the slopes of Mount Gable. An ambulance and paramedic arrived in jig time at the door of Clonbur church. And as all this unfolded the dignity of the Mannion family shone through. The concerned look on their faces said everything that’s good and genuine about them, and more.
Within the confines of Clonbur church it was game on. A man’s life was at stake. A losing battle it looked like but they were never going to give up on this one. They gave it their almighty best.
They searched frantically for a glimmer of hope until they found it. And someone saying “it’s ok, you’re alright, we’re here with you Father”, was confirmation a miracle had happened in Clonbur on the day of Micheál Mannion’s funeral.
The Clonbur Pride prophecy was now fulfilled.
As they and the volunteers removed him to the waiting ambulance the congregation broke into the most dignified sustained round of applause. Never was clapping more apt. They had just witnessed ordinary people perform extraordinary deeds. It was a fitting tribute to the memory of Fr Micheál Mannion.
We’d just seen a truly amazing occurrence. Unlikely too we’ll ever witness anything like it again on our journey to tell the stories that really matter. And, as in the telling of any great drama, it’s incumbent on us too to ink it with a tint of humour.
Father Mick Coen was in the right place at the right time. All emergency services were nearby. Even the undertaker was only feet away were he required. He wasn’t.
Clonbur pulled Mick Coen back from way beyond the brink. A miracle. That’s what happened.
A tag on. Father Coen is making a good recovery as we essay. He’s in fair good fettle and on the mend.