10 Aug 2022

'Someone up there was looking down on me' - Na Rossa's Trevor Melly

In an exclusive interview, Trevor Melly, one week after his near-death experience at Na Rossa's football ground while some 'gathered round and recited the Rosary,' says he is eternally grateful to those who saved him

'Someone up there was looking down on me' - Na Rossa's Trevor Melly

Trevor Melly pictured in his home at Ascall Bhride, Lettemacaward, yesterday with his wife Louise and their daughter Erin. Photos: Thomas Gallagher

One week, almost to the hour on Tuesday night, Na Rossa clubman Trevor Melly, is looking out his window at his club training and is emotional as he recalls the events of a night that he will remember for the rest of his life - a night he was inches from death's door.

Melly joined the club training for the first time in two or three months and after feeling a little unwell, went to go home, but ended up being airlifted to Altnagelvin hospital in Derry after suffering a heart attack just after turning the key in his car.
What could have been a tragic event was averted due to the coming together of a number of circumstances, the most important being the availability of a doctor, Amara Bonner, a couple of hundred yards from the field.

For 20 minutes, under the supervision of Amara - daughter of Catherine and Donegal's 1992 All-Ireland winner Declan - and the players that Trevor had been playing with, kept him alive while the others gathered round and recited the Rosary.

"It was a frightful experience," says Trevor, who this week was thinking of how it must have been for his brother, Felix, who was first on the scene; for his wife Louise and mother, Brid, who were there before he was airlifted, and for the club players.
But thankfully, a week later, Melly is on the way to a full recovery. "I'm sitting back in the sittingroom here. I got out yesterday (Monday) evening. My ribs are a bit sore," he says.

The Na Rossa stalwart and his family are well known throughout the county, especially through their involvement with the GAA - from parents Jamesie and Brid to siblings Diane, Sinead, Felix and Barry. Their gratitude to all involved and especially Dr Amara Bonner will never be forgotten.

Trevor, 44, says he has been playing football for Na Rossa for over 40 years and even played a few games last year.
Melly takes up the story as to how he was even at the training session on Tuesday of last week. "I go back to the start of the year, once you stop playing, you put on a bit of weight. I was talking to Christian Bonner and he asked me back at the start of the year. I was enjoying it but after my wife, Louise, was sick in February, I stopped and stepped away.

Trevor Melly (left) pictured in action for Na Rossa against Dessie McNamara of Bundoran

"Then about two weeks ago I thought I had a wile pile of weight on and I was talking to a friend, Peter Hanlon, and I said I would do something. I was out walking and doing bits and pieces, away from Na Rossa.

"Then I got a text from Christian, Declan's young fella, last Tuesday morning asking if there was any craic. Na Rossa have a big play-off game with Naomh Muire coming up and I asked when are you training again. He said they were training that night and he said why not come up for a bit of craic.

"That was the way it was. I was here and I didn't know what to do. So I threw on the gear and up I went and there was a great atmosphere and everything was going well.

"Many people asked if there were any telltale signs. I can't say there was. I was a bit tired at training but I thought it was just because I hadn't done much and maybe I was pushing myself too hard.

"At the end I felt a wee bit dull and I did a bit of walking. And I remember going over to Felix and Gerry McHugh sitting in the dugout and telling them I felt a wee bit sick. I told them I would go home and take a shower and I would be alright.

"I went to the car and the last thing I remember is putting the keys in the car and starting the car. But that was it. The next thing I remember is blue lights around me. It was a frightful experience, that's all I know.
"I was told afterwards that when I started the car, thankfully it was in reverse and the car went back and hit the tower light for the floodlights. That alerted Felix and he came down right away. He called Declan Bonner, who was taking the training, and he got Amara.

"By pure luck she was at home, a couple of hundred yards from the pitch. She landed and apparently four or five of the players jumped in to give me CPR and kept doing that until the ambulance arrived. The rest of the players from the training session were at the scene and reciting the rosary.

"In fairness to all of those lads who jumped in, if Amara wasn't there to instruct them what to do it wouldn't have worked. They were breaking my ribs, but she kept telling them to keep going, keep going. And only for she was in that house, I probably wouldn't be here.

"It's hard to believe, to be honest. The way I see it, I left here that evening to go and do something I loved to be doing. And with them preparing for the big game against Naomh Muire, Na Rossa means a lot to me and I was just mad to be up there to be part of it. There was a great buzz there and I couldn't believe it the next day when I was told what happened.

"The medical people told me that the first thing I said when I recovered was that I thought I was in a car accident."
The sequence of events just worked well for Trevor Melly. After being kept alive by CPR and Dr Amara Bonner, the ambulance arrived and took over and got his pulse back.

From there he was transported by helicopter to Altnagelvin Hospital where it was discovered that his main artery was blocked. A stint was inserted and he was back in coronary care in Letterkenny University Hospital the next evening and by the weekend was able to watch the Donegal Ladies semi-final and the All-Ireland hurling final on TV.

He is so thankful to all who helped him survive. "I'll never, ever forget any of them, that's all I know," said Melly.
All he has to worry about this week is sore ribs, which were damaged by the amount of CPR he went through. But I reminded him that he had got many a dig in the ribs when playing for Na Rossa and may have given out one or two also. "Maybe the odd one," he quips.

On Tuesday evening he was happy to look out the window and see his beloved Na Rossa continue to prepare for Saturday's big game in Dungloe against neighbours, Naomh Muire, with a place in Division 2 at stake.

"I'm sitting in my sittingroom now and I'm looking up at them boys training and I'll never ever forget any one of them."
Having played for Na Rossa since 1994/'95, he was looking forward to the big game.

"Indeed my plan was to tog out next Saturday, not as a player, but to go down there and encourage them and hopefully see them get a good result and get back to where Na Rossa used to be."

One of the late Michael 'Jack' O'Donnell's iconic pictures - a young Trevor Melly (with dad Jamesie behind him) pictured in MacCumhaill Park supporting Donegal in the late '80s, early '90s.

But he is not sure if he will go now. "My own recommendation is that I might stay at home, as it might not be good for the heart," laughs Melly.

While it was a scary night for all involved, Trevor recounts how difficult it was for his family. "Louise was in the house and saw some commotion at the field. The first thing she saw was Declan Bonner running to get Amara. She first thought something had happened one of his young fellas Christian or Cillian or an injury or something. The next thing she got a call to come up to the field that I was in a bit of bother.

"Another fella that was up there was my brother Felix," says an emotional Trevor. "Felix was calm and held it together. Louise came with me in helicopter. It was hard on Felix finding me.

"For most people the hardest part that night were for the people around me who had to watch what was happening.
"The first think I remember when I came round in the ambulance was Amara saying 'Trevor, you be calm and you'll be okay'," as they were transferring me from the ambulance to the helicopter.

"Another thing I noticed when I woke up was that my mother, Louise and Dr Kevin Bonner were standing at the back of the ambulance."

Melly knows that he was lucky and he has a warning for others who might be in a similar position. "I would be telling people to keep active and most importantly to go to your doctor and get yourself checked every now and again. I was lucky because of circumstances.

"Everything that happened that night happened for a reason. Firstly, I wasn't at training for three or four months before that. Second Declan Bonner wouldn't be training the team very often because of his commitment to Donegal. He just happened to be there that night.

"If Declan wasn't there, who was going to get Amara. Another thing that Felix told me today, that there was a door lying where I reversed the car and that was where I was placed for the CPR.

"I do believe that there was someone up there looking over me. In everything that went on, everything came together. There was a lot of things that could have went wrong that night," said Melly, who works in construction and was also involved with the Wills company on road works in the area.

A member of a very committed Na Rossa club family, Trevor remembers the work of the late Michael Duddy and the Wills company in the construction of the new football pitch. "I remember one day at the very start after I came in from work and

Michael Duddy came in after me. He says 'Trevor, have you got a tape in the van. You wouldn't come up to the field and measure it up.'

"At that stage there was nothing but bog up there. We were walking around and measuring and Michael says to me: 'Before I die I'll have green grass on this field'. In fairness to Michael, he was good to his word. And as I said early on, there was somebody looking down on me, who wasn't going to let me die in that field last Tuesday night."

He is thankful for the great support of his family and all the people that helped. "It's times like this you realise how good people are. I know Amara from when she was small and I used to buy her small bags of sweets. "Maybe she was paying me back. I know I was a lucky man. But lastly, I would urge everybody to go to a doctor and get tested."

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