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miracle man ‘I felt like an old man’ – footballer (30) feared for life after three heart attacks

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Ciaran Byrne (30) and girlfriend Nicola Sheil (29)

Ciaran Byrne (30) and girlfriend Nicola Sheil (29)

Ciaran Byrne (30) and girlfriend Nicola Sheil (29)

A 30-year-old man who suffered three heart attacks and feared he would not survive to become a father is about to take up a 5km challenge.

Gaelic footballer and jiu-jitsu fighter Ciaran Byrne was stunned when he had to have two stents inserted into his heart and was told he needed urgent cardiac care.

"The only thing I kept thinking about was that I am 30-years-old and I never got to meet my kids," the Louth man said.

"I felt so old and bad about myself. I felt like an old man in a young man's body."

Despite his diagnosis with unstable angina, Mr Byrne, who lives in Camolin in Co Wexford, with girlfriend Nicola Sheil (29) has signed up to walk the virtual Love Run to help the Irish Heart Foundation bridge a major funding gap caused by the pandemic.

The 5km event is part of the charity's Show Some Heart fundraising campaign which raises 150,000 euro each year.

That vital funding is usually generated through bucket collections, bag packing and events across Ireland but Covid 19 has meant all fundraising activity has moved online.

Cabinet maker Mr Byrne is urging everyone to put on their training gear and sign up for the February 14 challenge.

A former player with current Louth GAA club champions Naomh Mairtin and keen boxing and jiu-jitsu enthusiast, his health nightmare struck suddenly last August.

After struggling with persistent chest pains, vision difficulties and breathlessness, he was admitted to Wexford General Hospital.

An MRI scan and angiogram revealed he had suffered three previous heart attacks, had a major blockage in his coronary artery and was fitted with two stents to clear it.

Walking the Love Run is his way of thanking the Irish Heart Foundation support teams for getting him on the road to recovery, alongside the love and care of Ms Sheil.

He is a member of the charity's Heart Support Network on Facebook and has also received help and reassurance from the nurse support line.

"I am doing the Love Run for the Irish Heart Foundation but also for my parents, my brothers, for my family, for their future families," he added.

"I have three brothers and seeing their reactions when they realised that they nearly lost me was heartbreaking, it was very difficult for my parents as well.

"Your body will tell you when there is something wrong. It is up to you to listen to it."
Judith Gilsenan, the charity's head of fundraising, said thousands of people are diagnosed with a heart condition every year.

"Overnight, their life changes and they can feel vulnerable and isolated. We have been there to support people and fight against heart disease in communities, workplaces and schools," she said.

"This Valentine's Day, across Ireland, people can help support those living with heart conditions and stroke and those they love by taking part in the Love Run.

"We need 150,000 euro every year to make sure we are there for people living with heart disease and stroke. And we must be there, because every heart matters."

Register for 20 euro at irishheart.ie. If you are unable to take part, donations can be made at irishheart.ie.

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