Walking miracle Karlee (8) thanks people for saving her life


By Mary Dennehy

AN EIGHT-year-old girl visited Tallaght Fire Station this week to say ‘thank you’  to the team who helped save her life when she suffered a cardiac arrest in a local shopping centre.

Described by family as a ‘walking miracle’, little Karlee O’Brien Doonan collapsed in The Mill Shopping Centre last December, with her recovery also being credited to the lifesaving actions of the centre’s security staff.

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Karlee with Darragh Fahy, Paul Britton, Ed Walsh, Keith Mason, Martin McCabe and John McCormack outside Tallaght Fire Station

Up until she suffered a cardiac arrest on December 19, Karlee, who was seven at the time, was not showing any signs of an underlying condition or illness when she walked into the Clondalkin shopping centre with mam Linda and sister Abigail, six days before Christmas.

Speaking with The Echo, Karlee’s dad Steve, said “there was nothing at all” to suggest his daughter was ill until she had what is described as an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.

According to Steve, the security team in The Mill shopping centre responded straight away – with security man Danny O’Brien performing CPR, with assistance from his colleague Dan O’ Leary.

A lifeguard who was in the shopping centre at the time also stopped to help, and retrieved a defibrillator from the chemist in the centre. 

“Karlee is a walking miracle...and survived with no side effects”, Steve said.

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Karlee O’Brien Doonan visited Tallaght Fire Station under social distancing guidelines in her communion dress on Tuesday

“Thanks to security guard Danny performing CPR, she had no loss of oxygen to the brain.

“Then the firefighters came in and took over and looked after her all the way to Our Lady’s hospital [Crumlin].

“We actually had an escort to the hospital, there was Garda cars, paramedics, ambulances.

“We just want to say thanks to everyone, show them our gratitude... show them how good Karlee is because of them.”

Dad Steve, who spoke of how special his daughter’s Communion Day was last Saturday, added:: “The emergency response that day made a huge difference for sure.

“You don’t really know how important all of these [emergency] services are.

“Until you need them, you don’t really understand.” 

After a couple of months in hospital, Karlee was diagnosed with an underlying condition called  Catecholaminergic Polymorphic Ventricular Tachycardia (CPVT), an arrhythmogenic disorder of the heart.

As part of her treatment, Karlee now has an implant which, wired to the hospital, monitors her heart, with the third class pupil also having a portable defibrillator that goes everywhere with her.

Last Saturday, Karlee made her First Holy Communion in the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Clondalkin, and as part of her celebrations the kind eight-year-old and her grateful family wished to visit Tallaght Fire Station to express their ‘thanks’ to the A Watch unit.

Speaking during Karlee’s very special visit in her beautiful Communion dress, firefighter  Keith Mason remembered back to last December.

“We responded at around 4.30pm [on December 19] and when we arrived security had initiated CPR, and that bystander CPR is surely what saved Karlee’s life”, he said.

“When we got there we took over at the scene, continued CPR and administered shocks from a defibrillator and she was transported to Our Lady’s Hospital in Crumlin.”

Thanking Karlee and her family for their social distance visit, Keith said: “Acts like this mean a lot to us as fire fighters and paramedics, it’s rare we get to communicate and see what happens after an event so it’s huge for us to be able to see Karlee so fit and well and so happy in herself.

That’s the job satisfaction that we work for and we get a lot out of that... great to be able to see her here [at the station].”

Karlee’s Granny Linda Doonan from Tallaght wished to remind people of the importance of defibrillators for all people, of all ages, across the community.

Linda also wished to thank those who came to her grandaughter’s rescue.

“We just want to thank everyone, Danny in the Mill for performing CPR, the firefighters, the team at the hospital... thank you.

“You all deserve to be recognised for what you did.”

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