“I’m originally from Rathfarnham and have been living in Aylesbury for 39 years, in the same house. My wife Christine and I will be married 40 years in March. I’ve a son, Niall, who is a builder, he’s 34 and a daughter Aoife who’s married with three children, they’re great kids. I’ve been a full-time photographer for 30 years, generally doing weddings and social photography, family portraits, that kind of stuff. I’d have had a reasonably decent reputation as a wedding photographer around the Dublin area, the wildlife stuff I got into very late in life when I was in my late 40’s. I published a book in 2007 called Wild in my Country: A Photographic Journey, which did ok.
I had a heart attack in October 2014. I have no memory whatsoever of anything that happened up to a few weeks before it. I had just finished doing a wedding in Drogheda and apparently I was packing my gear into the car when I rang my son and my wife telling them I had a problem, that I had pains in both arms and they’d have to come and collect me. I can’t remember talking to them. Niall told me to ‘get back in that f****n hotel!’… typical builder! I collapsed in the reception and importantly, and luckily, beside a nurse who started CPR immediately. There was also a doctor having dinner in the hotel and he came to my assistance as well. They brought me to Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, it took 40 minutes of CPR to get me back, most people are dead at that stage. They moved me to the Mater and told my family that I would have to be moved back to the Lourdes because I was their patient. I arrested again in the Mater so then became their patient!
One doctor looked me in the eye and said ‘Michael you do realise you died three times?’
When you hear a doctor say that, it’s really scary and it makes you realise exactly what happened because I hadn’t really thought about it like that. I was in hospital for about eight weeks in total, for the first five I was in a coma. I spent the last two in Tallaght hospital, where I arrested again. I was released on Christmas day 2014. Everyone asks me did I see any flashing lights or anything while I was dead and the answer is no. No flashing lights, no devils with horns, no angels with wings so as far as I’m concerned when you die you’re gone, end of story. There’s nothing out there, when it’s over it’s over.
This heart attack is the best thing that’s happened to me in years, it’s given me a new lease of life. I want to do a lot more with my life now than I did before it happened. That’s how I ended up going on safari to Kenya last October. It was something I’ve always wanted to do. I was advised to leave it for two years but I thought f***k it I’ve died three times, I reckon I won’t come back the next time! I was scared going to Kenya but I’m so glad I did it, I got to photograph African wildlife and it’s opened up even more opportunities for me.”