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Imogen’s Story

Heart Children Ireland Fundraiser - Imogen runs in the Women's Mini Marathon

My name is Imogen Ryan.   On June 4th 2012   I completed the Flora Women’s Mini Marathon for Heart Children Ireland.   Both my brother and I had successfully undergone cardiac surgery at Our Lady ‘s Hospital, Crumlin so there was no doubt in my mind about the choice of charity  once I had decided to run.

I was born on November 9th 1994 in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary.   I became unwell very quickly.  Within two weeks I was diagnosed with a PDA and ASD at Our Lady’s Hospital, Crumlin.   I was stabilised with medication and after spending a week in the hospital, under the care of Dr. Oslizlok, I was allowed home.  Surgery was planned for a year later.   However, by Christmas, I was failing to thrive and became increasingly unwell.   By late January, I was back in Crumlin and diagnosed with double pneumonia.

Imogen as a Baby

Despite treatment for the pneumonia, my condition deteriorated and over the following weeks, I began to show signs of heart failure. My parents were told that my PDA was particularly large and troublesome.   During this time my parents recall many visits by young medical students who wanted to listen to such a loud heart murmur!  At this stage, I had been placed on an emergency list for surgery.  This was a very traumatic time for my parents as the outlook seemed quite bleak. I desperately needed the surgery but as the days and weeks passed, they were told that I was too unwell for theatre. My mother spent four continuous weeks in the hospital.  At that stage, there was some accommodation for parents provided on the second floor.  During those weeks, she did not return home or see my four year old brother who was staying with our grandparents.  This must have been upsetting for him also.  My father travelled between Clonmel and Dublin in order to attend work, visit my brother and also, spend time with my mother and me.   It seemed that their lives were thrown into complete chaos during that time.

Finally, in mid February, at the age of 13 weeks, I underwent surgery for the PDA.   The outcome was amazing!   In intensive care, my mother was thrilled to finally observe a normal heart rate on the monitor.  I was breathing peacefully and steadily for the first time ever.  

My recovery was rapid.   One week later, we left the hospital.  My mother recalls leaving the hospital with the feeling that she had just got a new baby as it was her first chance to really enjoy me and think positively about the future!

I continued to attend Crumlin over the following years as my ASD  was being monitored.   It was planned that I would have surgery at the age of eight years.   However there was a pleasant surprise when a routine visit the year before, indicated that the ASD had closed itself!  This was particularly surprising as my parents had been told on a previous visit to the Mater Hospital that the ASD would generally not close itself beyond the age of two years.

I continued to thrive and enjoy life and was finally discharged from Crumlin in 2010.   I can do everything now except deep sea diving!

After my surgery, my parents’ attention turned to my four year old brother, Robert.  When he was two years old, our GP had noticed a heart murmur but as he was thriving and healthy, it was not seen as a cause for concern.   However, after my birth and subsequent cardiac problems, our GP felt that Robert’s murmur should be investigated.   Some time later, in Crumlin, he was also diagnosed with a PDA.  He was treated by Dr. Duff and Dr. Oslizlok and had surgery successfully in 1997.   One positive aspect of my illness was that it led to my brother’s early diagnosis and treatment and avoided a situation where his condition might have caused problems for him later on.  He continued to attend routine check-up visits and was finally discharged from Crumlin in 2007.

Throughout our treatment and surgery at Crumlin we encountered the high standard of care and professionalism always associated with the hospital.   When we hear the controversy today about the location of the new children’s hospital, my parents recall very challenging journeys through Dublin traffic with a cross and sick baby reaching the limits of toleration of the confines of a car seat.  They feel a green field site on the outskirts of the city would bring relief to parents travelling long distances with such sick children.   However, the most important thing is that the high standard of care continues, regardless of location!

Heart Children Ireland has done much for the facilities at Crumlin Hospital and as a support for families of heart children.   This week, I see my marathon medal as a symbol of my triumph over illness – thanks to Crumlin!   In running the marathon, I am delighted to give back a little to an organisation  that has done so much for Irish families!

Imogen and Maria Ryan

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