Paul Shannon

Paul ShannonI have been a keen participant in a variety of sports for most of my adult life. At 62 years old, I consider myself to be quite fit and enjoy many sports, including dragon boat racing.

Our team, the Melbourne Dragon Masters, had travelled to Wodonga on the Victoria / New South Wales border for a weekend of racing. This was the last regional regatta of the racing season, and we were all keen to do well in preparation for the upcoming Australian Championships, State-vs-State Championships and for our debut in the Club Crew World Championships which were to take place in April.

On Saturday, 27th January 2016, at 5.30 pm, we were lined up for the first race of the competition. This was a 2000 metre ‘sweeps’ race, one of my favourite events. I was paddling in seat 4–right and feeling great. My wife, Vicki, was sweeping (steering) and the boat felt strong. As we made the final turn, I knew that a podium finish was on the horizon. About 10 metres from the finish line, Vicki gave the command “Lift lift lift!”, and that was the last thing that I remember.

I woke up the next morning in the Intensive Care Unit of Albury Base Hospital, with Vicki sitting next to my bed. She explained that I had suffered a sudden cardiac arrest.

Like so many cardiac arrest survival stories, mine is one of amazing good fortune. When I collapsed, I nearly caused the dragon boat to capsize and it was only through Vicki’s quick thinking and excellent boat control that we managed to stay upright. Vicki expertly steered our boat into shore while Brigid, who was paddling in seat 3 turned around, hoisted me out from between seats, ripped off my personal floatation device (life-jacket) and within 20 seconds was performing CPR. Brigid is a cardiac nurse. Vicki, standing in the back of the boat, was well aware that one of her team members had collapsed in the front of the boat, but she had not yet realised that the paddler was her husband.

By the time the boat landed, I was breathing again, though not conscious. My team members attempted to lift me out of the boat, but unfortunately, I was dropped in the water and I stopped breathing again.

I was carried to shore and CPR was continued by three members from other teams, Mira, Narelle and Linda. My breathing was monitored by Cathy from my team, and it was she who intubated me. Cathy and Mira are both GPs. Fortunately, an automatic external defibrillator (AED) and oxygen were in the first-aid tent. Brigid placed the pads on my chest and after two shocks, I was breathing again. Oxygen was administered by another paddler, even before the ambulances arrived. So, bringing me back to life was a wonderful team effort.

Not one, but several ambulances arrived. I was taken into a mobile intensive care ambulance and sedated as I was thrashing about. I was then transported to the Intensive Care Unit of the Albury Base Hospital.

I regained consciousness on Sunday morning at about 9 am, 14 hours after my cardiac arrest and I became alert in a short period of time. My sons joined us in the ICU after about an hour later, having driven through night to be with me. Within an hour of their arriving, however, I was informed that the Royal Flying Doctor Service was going to fly me to Melbourne and then transport me to Epworth Eastern Hospital. The plane was due to take off in an hour. My sons’ efforts were not wasted, however. After their brief visit, they were able to make things easier for Vicki by driving her back to Melbourne.

During my 10 days and nights at Epworth Eastern, I was given test after test, but the team of cardiologists could find no reason for my sudden cardiac arrest. I felt comfortable and physically fit. On 4th March, 2016, I underwent surgery for the insertion of an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD).

It was a great disappointment that I was unable to participate in the three championships in April. However, I was able to attend, volunteer as a team manager, and receive amazing support from my team members.

And now, ten months later, I am back to full-on dragon boat racing, cycling and enjoying life with my family. The cause of my cardiac arrest remains unknown. I have not had another VF event, but I take comfort in knowing that I have a built-in insurance policy, and look forward to a long and active life.


Some interesting thoughts and observations:

 Paul Shannon

 Paul paddling in the right-front of boat 3


Paul Shannon

Paul sweeping the Dragon Masters

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