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Sydney ball player recovers from heart attack in time to marry his love

Sean Ferguson will marry Alyssa Kavanagh on Friday, just five weeks after suffering a cardiac arrest while playing basketball with some Sydney Sooners teammates at the Sullivan Field House. The well-known Sydney athlete said the wedding date served as extra motivation during his recovery.
Sean Ferguson will marry Alyssa Kavanagh on Friday, just five weeks after suffering a cardiac arrest while playing basketball with some Sydney Sooners teammates at the Sullivan Field House. The well-known Sydney athlete said the wedding date served as extra motivation during his recovery.

SYDNEY — Sean Ferguson is one happy guy.

But what will make the day even more special is that “Fergie” will walk down the aisle just five weeks after suffering cardiac arrest while playing basketball with some of his Sydney Sooner teammates, whose quick actions on that day helped save the life of the 23-year-old catcher.

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On Wednesday, Ferguson took part in a wedding rehearsal before attending a social gathering at the River Ryan home of his financée Alyssa Kavanagh, who is a former standout soccer player at Cape Breton University.

“It’s going to be a great day,” said Kavanagh, who along with the groom took some time out from a game of washers to reflect on the recent happenings in their life.

Ferguson, whose 19 days in hospital included 13 nights in Halifax, said his recovery is going well and that he feels stronger each day. And he credits his pending wedding date as motivation to get better.

“We’re absolutely going ahead with it — just knowing that my wedding day was as close as it was gave me extra motivation to get back on my feet,” said Ferguson, who had just taken over full-time catching duties with the Sooners following the retirement of former backstop Matt Denney.

“I feel really good right now — my energy is up, things are getting better and my incisions are healing well, so the recovery is definitely in full swing.”

Ferguson’s life-altering experience happened on June 9 at CBU’s Sullivan Field House, where he was playing basketball with fellow Sooners Jordan Shepherd, Taylor Slade, Kenny Long and Reilly O’Rourke, and team assistant operations manager Noah LaRose. After going down on the court, they quickly realized something was amiss and immediately called 911. They were then guided through CPR and the use of a defibrillator. Then paramedics arrived and Ferguson was transported to hospital.

“They saved my life — I know that without them I wouldn’t be here, they definitely did their part,” said a grateful Ferguson, who was in a coma his first few days in hospital.

Sean Ferguson takes a big cut at the ball during a Sydney Sooners home game in 2015. The 23-year-old had just taken over the job as the team’s full-time catcher when he suffered a heart attack on June 9 while playing basketball with some friends. He is still recovering, but will go ahead with his wedding on Friday.

Diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (a thickened heart muscle that can make it harder for the heart to pump blood), Ferguson has since become a recipient of an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator.

“Now I have my own little paramedic inside me,” he said.

Ferguson said he’s been overwhelmed with the support that he, his fiancée and their families have received over the past five weeks.

“Cape Breton is a small place and everybody seems to be so supportive when it comes to things like this and it’s made a world of difference — it really helps you recover and gives you peace of mind knowing how much support you get,” he said.

On the eve of his wedding, Ferguson considers himself a lucky man and said the only downside of the date is that his Sooners are on the road in Dartmouth for a three-game weekend set.

“If I could change one thing it would be that the Sooners wouldn’t be playing up in Dartmouth — maybe they’ll be rained out,” he said with a smile.

Ferguson, who is also a former member of the Glace Bay Junior Miners hockey club, is cautiously optimistic about someday returning to the ball field.

“That’s my main goal — to get back to baseball,” he admitted.

“They say baseball is definitely going to be a possibility, but I’ll have to do some followups with the doctors to make sure I’m healed up properly. But, they weren’t too optimistic about hockey because contact-wise it can be dangerous. Anyway, my competitive days of hockey are over.”

Longtime Sooners manager Jim (Rico) McEachern said the entire team is thrilled about Ferguson’s recovery and looks forward to getting the popular player back on the bench.

“In the 40-year history of the Sydney Sooners I would have to say that he is one of the best team players we’ve ever had, he’s certainly one of the most gregarious and outgoing — his health obviously comes first, but we’d love to see him back at the field,” said McEachern.

For now, though, Ferguson’s immediate focus is on getting married. He’s scheduled to meet with his cardiologists in Halifax later in the summer for a check-up.

“The doctors expect me to continue to lead a normal life and I’m going to live it as best I can,” he said.

david.jala@cbpost.com

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