It’s been a busy few months. I’m getting two weeks off from Wednesday, which is welcome I suppose. Where this all began is with an appointment at the CRYP centre in Tallaght hospital to get my three girls, and me, checked for any irregularities in our hearts. We were monitored, scanned, I ran farther on a treadmill than, it is safe to say, I have run in quite sometime and were sent home with Holter monitors to wear over night.
Actually, it didn’t begin with that at all. It began in the summer of 2006 when, while on holiday in Killarney with my wife and then only one daughter we got a phone call nobody would wish on his worst enemy: my brother had been found dead in his apartment in Dublin. Conor had been treated for a heart problem for years before and now at 32 he was gone, it’s defined our family since.
So when the doctor called to say my Holter monitor showed a pause of five and a half seconds around five am (in other words my heart stopped) I was pretty calm. The kids were all fine and I knew Conor had had pauses of up to eight seconds so I didn’t panic. Then I asked the doctor what we should do about it and she said she’d like me to get a pacemaker.
A pacemaker is a small, battery-operated device into your chest, to help your heart beat regularly, you know that. The surgery is minor, I only get a local anesthetic and I’ll be awake while it’s done. It’s preventative, it’s to make sure I motor on, but it’s my heart and that’s crucial to understanding the nerves that go with this operation.
When I was a kid I was a pretty good athlete, a sprinter and middle distance runner for most of my teens, I think it’s safe to say that girls and school got in the way and I drifted away from it. I still feel my heart beating as I won my first All-Ireland medal, it was fine and regular when I came off the bend in a 200 metre sprint, but when I saw the line and no-one ahead of me, there was a quickening, when I saw my brothers and parents that’s when it almost burst out of my chest. Or when I saw my wife in Holycross Abbey on our wedding day, or when each of my three children was born, that’s when I remember my heartbeat. So the way I think of having a pacemaker fitted isn’t as the end of something, just a little bionic kick to make sure I can have more of those moments, though I’m not planning on running 200 metres, or getting married again (or having any more kids!).
At CRY they have a big family tree for us, on a huge spreadsheet. I imagine there’s a code for checked and clear, one for checked and operated on, one for the next world. A death in the family isn’t easy, a young death is a shadow hanging over you for ever. That’s what CRY is for, making sure the shadow doesn’t spread. My Dad has raised huge money for them over the years, they exist on donations which is criminal when there is such a need for the service they provide.
So. That’s it. I’m not allowed to drive, but I can, write and tweet. If you’re thinking of helping a charity cry.ie is a good choice.