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Garda’s tragic death prompts exercise warning

News

TRAGIC DEATH Garda John McCallion suffered a heart attack while cycling on the main Swinford to Kiltimagh road.

Off-duty garda (48) suffered heart attack while cycling

Anton McNulty

A pathologist has advised middle-aged people to undergo health screening for underlying health problems before they take up strenuous exercise like running and cycling.
The inquest of Garda John McCallion heard that the 48 year old from Carnacross, Swinford, suffered a heart attack while cycling on the main Swinford to Kiltimagh road at Tullinacurra, Swinford, on Friday, May 24, last.
Despite the assistance of a number of off-duty nurses, who performed CPR and used a defibrillator on Garda McCallion, he passed away shortly afterwards. A postmortem found that the cause of death was natural, due to acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) due to coronary artery thrombosis caused by severe coronary sclerosis.

Underlying problems
Dr Tomas Nemeth, consultant pathologist who performed the postmortem, explained that there was a recent thrombotic complete blockage of the left anterior descending artery.
When asked by Mr Pat O’Connor, Coroner for Mayo, if exercise could have caused the heart attack, Dr Nemeth said in this case he had ‘no evidence physical exercise resulted in this thrombosis in any way’. However, he said that exercising when underlying problems are present can result in heart attacks, and he recommended that people get screened before taking up exercise.
“We had a couple of cases similar to this where people started cycling or jogging or hiking at an age of 40 or 50,” he said, adding that when people are starting a new fitness regime, or are going back to training after a period of absence, they should go for a stress ECG test and medical check-up. Such a test could reveal, for example, a stenosis – a dysfunctional heart valve – a condition that is normally silent but can become fatal when the body is doing strenuous work.

Roadside care
The inquest heard evidence from a number of people who attended to Garda Callion at the scene. He had been seen cycling on his own at approximately, 6.45pm close to the scene where he was found.
Wojciech Warkocki explained that he was in a van with friends when shortly before 7pm he saw a man lying on the road.
He described seeing the cyclist on his back with the back wheel of the bicycle on his legs. Mr Warkocki felt a pulse and placed Garda Callion in the recovery position. He noticed he was taking very deep breaths as normal and then ‘no breaths at all’.
Collette Murtagh, a nurse, said her sister told her to ring 999, as there had been a traffic accident in front of the house. She went outside and noticed the colour around Garda Callion’s mouth was blue and that he was gasping.
She performed CPR compressions and could find no pulse. She was joined at the scene by Brendan Mullaney, a vet from Swinford, who also assisted. He called his wife, Regina Carley, a Garda sergeant and asked her to bring a defibrillator.
When a defibrillator arrived a shock was administered. A number of people performed CPR as they arrived at the scene, and Garda McCallion was taken to Mayo University Hospital. He was pronounced dead at 8.44pm.

Great loss
Mr O’Connor recorded a verdict of death due to natural causes and extended his sympathies to Garda McCallion’s wife, Collette, and their three children; his parents, Bob and Nancy; and his siblings, Deirdre and Noreen, on their dreadful tragedy. He added that An Garda Síochána and the entire Swinford community mourned the loss of a valued member of society.
Inspector Denis Harrington echoed Mr O Connor’s comments and thanked all the people who offered help to Garda McCallion, some of whom knew him personally.
“John was a great friend and colleague and his loss is still felt by An Garda Síochána in Mayo. On behalf of all of us we extend our sympathies [to his family] and we are always there for you,” he said.