Beach rugby squad makes miracle save

Eric Shannon, centre, gets his hands on the ball again just two weeks after his teammates and team medic performed CPR and used a defribillator to help Shannon recover his pulse after a heart-stopping, mid-game hit. Despite going 10 minutes without a pulse, Shannon is expected to make a full recovery thanks to his colleagues' quick response on the field. PHOTO: Andrew Hudson
Eric Shannon, centre, gets his hands on the ball again on Sept. 12, just two weeks after his teammates and team medic performed CPR and used a defibrillator to help Shannon recover his pulse after a heart-stopping, mid-game hit. Despite going 10 minutes without a pulse, Shannon is expected to make a full recovery thanks to his colleagues’ quick response on the field.
PHOTO: Andrew Hudson

They call him ‘Cotton.’

Eric Shannon showed why on Saturday, Sept. 12 when the ball came sailing at the bleachers during a Balmy Beach rugby game.

Stepping away from an interview with Beach Metro News, Shannon turned around and caught it, soft-handed.

The crowd cheered. So did the Beach players on the field, and their Markham Irish rivals.

Eric wasn’t even playing on Saturday, and that ball was just a kick flying out of bounds.

But it was a miracle catch, like everything else Eric Shannon does from now on.

In another game just two weeks before, the 25 year-old took a hit to the chest that stopped his heart.

It wasn’t the hit so much as the timing.

Eric’s heart got caught in the split-second between contracting and expanding – a window of 10 to 30 milliseconds, less than the blink of an eye.

His heart didn’t beat again for 10 minutes. In other words, he was dead.

Eric’s teammates saw him collapse, and saw right away how strange it was. He fell face-down, with no hands out to break his fall.

Together with team medic Kaylin Perchinig, his teammates Haydn Gage and Conor McCann ran over, switching from rugby mode to CPR.

“I can’t believe how quickly they got me back,” Eric says.

“That’s what saved me. I had guys 10 feet away who were doing CPR on me within 30 seconds of noticing I was out.”

Someone ran and grabbed the defibrillator from inside the stadium at Fletcher’s Fields.

It took three shocks, but they reset Shannon’s heart and his pulse returned.

Haydn Gage, a firefighter, said it was only three months ago that he and McCann happened to run through exactly the CPR drill that they needed to use. McCann is training to be a firefighter.

“He’s a good teacher,” said McCann, smiling.

The defibrillator they used was only installed at Fletcher’s Fields stadium this summer, when the Markham rugby field was used as a training ground for the Pan Am Games.

“There should be one at every field,” said Eric, noting that most hockey arenas have one already. After his fall, the Balmy Beach Rugby Club bought a portable one.

Eric remembers nothing about the day he collapsed. He was rushed from the field to Sunnybrook Hospital and put into a coma for five days.

Doctors kept Eric on an “ice bed” to keep his blood pressure low as they monitored him and made sure he could breathe on his own.

Eric showed no sign of lasting damage, not even a rib break from the CPR.

“Very rarely do you walk out of the ICU, and that’s what he did,” said Lori Shannon, Eric’s mother.

“Everybody was in shock.”

Eric is now on orders to take it easy, starting with 20-minute walks that he is ramping up by five minutes a day.

But by the end of the month, Eric said, he should be jogging again, and next year, he plans to be back in the game.

Lori said she is grateful, not only for what everyone did to save Eric that day, but also for the many hours of training they did to keep their CPR skills in play.

“It was the skill here that saved his life,” she said.


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