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Referee thanks ‘big shinty family’ and Castle Leod lifesavers in wake of collapse drama

By Hector MacKenzie

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Referee Steven MacLachlan officiates the toss-up before the start of the game in the match played at Castle Leod, Strathpeffer. Picture: Neil G. Paterson
Referee Steven MacLachlan officiates the toss-up before the start of the game in the match played at Castle Leod, Strathpeffer. Picture: Neil G. Paterson

The Highland referee who owes his life to quick-thinking players and the presence of a defibrillator has paid heartfelt thanks to local heroes.

As previously reported, Steven Maclachlan, who lives in the Muir of Ord area, collapsed 13 minutes in to a clash her was refereeing in Strathpeffer between Caberfeidh and Kinlochshiel.

Kinlochshiel captain Conor Cormack, who is a local firefighter, was amongst those on the scene who stepped into action, taking charge and leading the first aid prior to
ambulance back-up arriving.


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Mr Cormack, who was assisted in administering first aid last Saturday afternoon at Castle Leod by teammate Keith MacRae, is a work colleague of Mr Maclachlan and has known him for many years.

In a post shared on social media, Mr Maclachlan, who was taken by ambulance to Raigmore after the use of a defibrillator located at the club, admitted it had been “an emotional few days” in the wake of his collapse at 3.13pm that day.

He wrote: “There are so many people that have had a hand in me being able to write this.

“Firstly and most importantly without the initial actions from Conor, Keith and Lucky2BHere having supplied a defibrillator to Caberfeidh it would have ended at 15.13. Then all the other first aiders that were there to help before ambulance, PICT doc and the helimed arrived.

“To both teams, Caberfeidh and Kinlochshiel, who stood around the scene to take pressure of first aiders, thank you so much, your contribution was a great part of the overall ending. I will be up for the rearranged fixture on the 13th to thank you all in person.

“The medical teams that arrived were brilliant, don't know what they were doing but it looked good anyway. The ambulance driver…thank you so much for getting me to hospital so quickly. The two doctors in the back that helped with everything and a bit of hilarity on the way.”

He paid tribute to the surgical team waiting to receive him “and did such an excellent job I am now home”.

He said staff who looked after him throughout his stay in hospital “were brilliant and made my recovery so much quicker and easier”.

And he went on: “And to my family, I am only now realising the trauma I put you through as I am oblivious to most of it. Your care and usual cheek has made it so much easier.

“To all the people who have been in contact with me and family I cannot thank you enough. Shinty is truly one big family. I knew the fire service was one big family already but has been overwhelming how far it travelled and people that have been in contact. I will eventually reply or meet everyone to thank them.

“There are others in the background but once I have processed all this they will get a mention as this is early days.

“I don't know what the future holds but if allowed will be back reffing before end of season. Which some might not be so happy about.”

Earlier this week at Castle Leod, Caberfeidh Shinty Club held a get-together with Pam Gowie from Lucky2BHere and Alec Stewart, club chaplain, to talk through the experiences of last Saturday with players and committee members involved.

The club said: “Prior to the meeting we were delighted to welcome the Maclachlan family who wished to thank the players for their part in the care of Steven.”

It added: “Pam answered multiple questions about cardiac arrests, defibrillators, their use and the resuscitation process and left all of the large audience much better informed. We will be arranging defibrillator and CPR training with Pam across the coming weeks.

“Alec spoke about the effects of a distressing event and how best to communicate for anyone experiencing issues.”

Caberfeidh president Ian MacLean earlier this week hailed the the role of the players.

He said: “They really are heroes. It was a group effort. It was great to see the defibrillator put to use.

“The charity which installed it, Lucky2BHere, is an amazing group and was set up by a shinty player, Ross Cowie. The majority of shinty clubs I think now have them and this was the first time ours was used.”

Defibrillators are devices that apply an electric charge or current to the heart to restore a normal heartbeat.

If the heart rhythm stops due to cardiac arrest, also known as sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), a defibrillator may help it start beating again.

Mr MacLean said: “Ten years ago this might have been a tragedy and now it is something of a triumph. The defibrillators sit on a wall flashing away and largely unnoticed for much of the time. And then in a situation like this it is a life-saver.”

He said training and awareness are key and it was fortunate in this instance that a firefighter familiar with what to do was on scene.

Mr MacLean said everyone attending was respectful and followed instructions to keep entries and exits clear for arriving ambulance teams.

The clubs will be donating their share of the gate to the Lucky2BHere charity as a token of appreciation.

Hundreds of people took to social media to post their thanks, amongst them Mr Maclachlan’s son Marc. He posted: “I cannot put into words my appreciation to Conor Cormack and everyone that helped my dad I will be forever grateful to you.”

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