A patient story – Cormac Ryan shares his story & his experience as patient in the CRY Centre
My journey to finding CRY and becoming a regular patient is admittedly a journey I never thought I’d go on when I turned 18. At this time, I had one love, hurling. I was lucky enough to be playing in goal for the Dublin Minor hurling team in 2011, a year that brought us to an All Ireland Final in Croke Park in September. I had also finished my leaving cert that summer and was starting my Athletic Therapy & Training course in DCU. All was well…or so I thought.
Between late 2011 and early 2012 I had a few scares on the pitch. Long story short, repeated episodes of chest pain, dizzy spells, breathlessness. Visits to A&E and the G.P. meant anxious nights for my parents but I was assured I was fine, and that it was likely my asthma acting up. Being typical parents, mam and dad were not happy with this. Dad asked a family friend of ours, Prof. McElvaney, a pulmonary consultant to check me over. Luckily for me, Prof. asked me to wear a holter monitor for 24 hours and go for a run. I dropped the holter back to Beaumont Hospital on a Friday morning and by Friday evening I was in Coronary Care. Two weeks later, I came home with a pacemaker implanted and a diagnosis of atrioventricular block. All at the tender age of 18.
The following months are a bit of a haze really. As you can imagine I went into a pretty dark place. Despite being extremely lucky to have had my issue picked up, I couldn’t help but feel hard done by.
Beyond me, mam and dad were obviously stunned with the news and their immediate concern was to see if this was a genetic issue. Everyone was to be screened but they didn’t know where to turn.
I’ll be honest and admit that I’m not sure how Dad found CRY, I’m assuming our G.P. referred us. Such was the level of care when the whole family was screened, my parents requested that my cardiology care be taken over by Dr. Ward and the team at CRY. And to this day I’m blessed to have such caring, talented people over-seeing my care.
I still remember my first time in CRY. I regrettably judged the book by it’s cover, as I saw the portacabins out the back of Tallaght Hospital. I didn’t have a clue what to expect.
In the waiting room, I read articles of all the work CRY has done and testimonies from all the people CRY have saved, as well as the grieving families CRY have screened and helped come to terms with their tragic losses. Then my name was called and one by one, test after test, I met all the team. Genuine, professional people, all with my best interests at heart. A few hours later, I left CRY baffled at how such an outstanding service and such incredible people had to operate out of a portacabin. I was even more perplexed to learn they were without government funding. Since that day I’ve returned to my friends n CRY at least once every year for my annual check-up.
I was left in genuine despair in the initial year or two after my diagnosis. I felt completely isolated and alone despite the constant love and support of family and friends. How many 18 year olds were wandering Dublin with a pacemaker? CRY became a great support for me. Despite the fear, the one thing that allowed me to sleep at night was the knowledge that the experts in CRY were happy that I was safe and going to be fine. CRY also became a shoulder to cry on when I needed it. CRY organised counselling for me, something I’m grateful for to this day and something I would recommend for anyone who goes through something similar.
Given everything I’ve just outlined, when I returned to CRY for my most recent check-up in July, I was overwhelmed and delighted to see and experience their new facility. It blew me away. A state of the art clinic for a first class service. In both the old and the new facility, the welcome, the care and kindness remains the same, so in that sense the most important things have not changed. But I could not have been any happier for the staff. To see these people in a home they truly deserve, allowing them to continue saving lives, brought a genuine smile to my face. It’s a testament to the endeavor of each and every one of the staff and those raising funds for CRY.
I do think it’s important to acknowledge that CRY’s work is never done. Behind the screening and check-ups is a monumental daily effort to keep CRY afloat and functioning. And that happens through fundraising and donations. So if you’re reading this, I would urge you to consider fundraising for CRY. To continue their life saving work, CRY needs us to give something back. No matter how big or small.
In 2013 & 2015, my friends, family and I cycled 1,200KM around Ireland in order to raise funds for CRY in what was a truly cathartic experience, not only for me, but my family too. And the CRY team were there to support us and welcome us home on both occasions. No matter what your idea, CRY will support you and help make it happen.
Finding CRY has been a blessing to me and my family. It has given my parents piece of mind, given, my siblings a clean bill of health, and given me reassurance. More than anything, CRY has given me the confidence to continue living life to the full. I returned to hurling with Dublin at u-21 level shortly after my illness and still play with my club. I am now working as a physiotherapist after completing my masters in 2018. And in 2021, I hope to cycle across America, 5,500KM from Los Angeles to New York. Without CRY, I’m not sure if any of that would have been possible. I owe them more than they’ll ever know.