'He was close to death' - neighbours save life of choking TD Healy-Rae
Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae has thanked his two neighbours who saved his life after he almost choked to death.
Eileen Finnegan and Margaret Doran rushed to the politician's aid after they could hear his wife frantically calling for help from their back garden.
Healthcare worker Eileen, who works at Kenmare Hospital, and full-time carer Margaret rushed to his home in Kilgarvan.
Mr Healy-Rae said he was "rushing" through his dinner at home on March 25 when a piece of chicken suddenly became lodged in his airway.
He made his way out to his wife in their back garden, who then called out for help.
Eileen told the Herald that when they arrived on the scene, she saw Mr Healy-Rae on his knees in his garden.
"I was having coffee with my friend Margaret when I heard Michael's wife scream for help.
"I ran outside and saw him on his knees, choking. It was clear that his airway was blocked, so I knew I should administer the Heimlich manoeuvre."
Believing he could freely breathe again, the Independent TD tried to drink some water.
However, only a piece of the food came up, and his arms began to go limp and turn purple.
"He was very lucky and was close to death," Eileen said.
"When the ambulance came, he was doing a little better and I was told that he was minutes away from death."
Margaret said she held on to Mr Healy-Rae to prevent him from falling over and from passing out.
"Although Eileen did most of the work, I managed to keep him calm. The fact that he was able to get a little bit of air in his lungs really saved him. He was very lucky," she said.
"All you could do was wait for the ambulance, but thankfully, before it arrived Eileen had done the Heimlich and released the piece of chicken."
Speaking to the Herald, Mr Healy-Rae said he got a huge fright, but has managed to get over it.
"I've had numerous lucky escapes in the past, but this was definitely the tightest," he said.
"It's an awful sensation to be choking. However, I knew it was best to remain cool because if I had panicked and passed out, it would have been all over for me.
"Luckily, I knew where my wife was, because I managed to walk around and up the steps to the clothes line to alert her."
Asked if he had learned any lessons from his frightening ordeal, Mr Healy-Rae said to slow down and "keep his mouth shut" when eating.
"I had an awful habit of talking on the phone while eating, because my attitude would be always be to do two things at once," he said.
A year ago, the politician was attacked by a cow on his farm, which left him with bruising.
"Last year, a cow nearly got me and this year it was a chicken. My nephew even advised me to try and jump over the month of March next year," he said.
"It was as if it was set out that I wasn't meant to die because of the fact that Eileen and Margarete were around.
"If it wasn't for their help, including from my wife, God knows what would have happened."