20 October 2023
By Mary Bemingham
A tourist returned to a Cork hospital in the past week to thank the consultant cardiologist who saved his life during a severe heart attack.
Mark Lang’s wife Julie, 51, believes her husband would not have survived had the holidaying English couple not been staying within minutes of Cork University Hospital.
The former amateur rugby league player suffered three cardiac arrests and was revived each time.
After returning recently to thank the team which brought him back from the brink, Mark, 56, said: “Professor Noel Caplice told me: ‘You were knocking at those gates (of heaven) a few times and we weren’t letting you go in’.”
The dad-of-two’s health nightmare began on February 26 last, just hours after the couple, from Ormskirk, 20km north of Liverpool, enjoyed a night out in Cork.
“I woke up at 3am and thought I had indigestion, I started to be sick and after an hour, I had a shower; I thought that might help me feel a bit better,” recalled Mark.
“I lay down for about 20 minutes, woke up again and the pain was so intense in my hands and jaw, I told Julie I needed to get to hospital.”
The A&E department at CUH’s Wilton campus is just seven minutes’ drive from the Kingsley Hotel, where the Langs were staying.
In the time it took Julie to park their car, Mark was whisked to the hospital’s resus area as an emergency team prepared him for the cath lab and stent insertion.
“I was just standing there watching,” said Julie.
“They came from everywhere; doctors, nurses, all the clinicians, anaesthetists, the response was amazing.”
She believes fate stepped in to save her husband – a planned holiday in Kraków with friends had been postponed days earlier, so they booked a short break in Ireland instead.
“At home, our local hospital is 20 minutes away. If we were here, Mark could have arrested in the car and might not have survived. It obviously wasn’t his time to go,” she said.
Weighbridge operator Mark is now on the road to recovery, but living with a heart function rate of just 27%.
A three-week stint in CUH’s coronary care unit was followed by the fitting of an ICD (defibrillator) and pacemaker at Spire Hospital in Manchester and further care at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital.
Last month, Mark and Julie returned to Cork to present CUH Charity (the hospital’s fundraising arm) with a donation from players at Ormskirk Rugby Club, where he coached for 15 years and Julie was a club steward.
“I only realised when I was talking to Prof Caplice afterwards, how close I was to not being here at all,” said Mark.
“It gives you a true appreciation of what they do.”
Claire Concannon of CUH Charity said the incident highlighted the hospital’s care of patients from much further afield than Cork or Munster.