How the CRYP Centre Helped Me by Fintan O’Mahony

Love___Heart_of_hearts_042863_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.

If you would like to learn about CRY, find out more about our services or participate in a fundraising activity please contact lebbs@cry.ie or check our website.

What exactly is SADS?

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What Exactly is SADS?

As part of my job in CRY I visit a lot of schools, universities, workplaces and community centres to educate people on Sudden Adult Death Syndrome (SADS) and the work that our charity CRY does. I find on my visits that a lot of people are not quite sure what is involved when someone dies from SADS. So I thought this would be a good topic to talk about and I promise to keep this as simple as possible. I am not a medical professional either so I will have to keep it as simple as possible!

The best way to describe what happens to the heart when someone dies from SADS is to compare it to when you switch off a light – the heart literally stops. It’s not like a heart attack, which can be more gradual. It is for this reason that the person has very little time to be resuscitated by a defibrillator. I suppose another comparison would be to a car battery. You need that jolt from the defibrillator to get the heart going again. Unfortunately a defibrillator does not always work and mouth to mouth resuscitation does not work in this case. Even so, it is so important for defibrillators to be available in as many public places as is possible to give an individual the best chance of survival.

A lot of young people who die from this seem to be normal active people. But there are symptoms that you can look out for- chest pains, palpitations (please note these are very common and can be caused for a variety of reasons), fainting and seizures during exercise and shortness of breath during exercise. But the biggest thing to look out for is a family history of someone dying suddenly at a young age and for someone within your family living with a heart condition. There is a lot more detail on this on our website http://www.cry.ie/index.php/need-help/information.

Many people associate SADS with sports and it is a misconception that sport can cause this condition. People who die from SADS already have a heart condition which, in the majority of cases, they do not know about. Sport generally increases the work that the heart has to do, so can increase the incidents of sudden death during a period of intense activity.

If you feel you need to be screened because there is a family history or you suffer from any of the symptoms above, contact your GP and if they feel it is necessary they can refer you on to the CRYP Screening Centre. Please note the majority of families that the centre sees have a family history of SADS. For further information check out our website at http://www.cry.ie/index.php/need-help/information. I hope this has been helpful in giving you a better understanding of what SADS is.

Orla Durkan – Fundraising Manager

If you would like to learn about CRY, find out more about our services or participate in a fundraising activity please contact me or check our website.