Legendary Mayo footballer and media pundit Billy Fitzpatrick is advising people not to be afraid to go to hospital — after he suffered a heart scare during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown
Billy told the Irish Sun he was preparing to go for a walk on Easter Sunday when he suffered a “very sharp pain” in the top of his chest.
“At the time, I thought this was my heart, I could die from this.
“I wasn’t going to die of Covid at that moment, it was my heart that was important and I wanted to look after it so I had to go.”
The 75-year-old was brought from Claremorris to Mayo University Hospital in Castlebar before being transferred to Dublin’s Mater where he was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heartbeat, which can increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
He has been prescribed medication which means he will be able to avoid any long-term consequences. And he says his decision to seek swift medical attention contributed to the positive outcome.
“I don’t have any heart damage at all which is great, but if you wait too long to be seen, you’ll have heart damage that will stay with you for the rest of your life.”
Billy holds the record of being the oldest player to play in an All-Ireland semi-final in Croke Park, having lined out for Mayo against Dublin in 1985 at age of 41, some 20 years after he had made his debut. He has enjoyed robust health since his retirement from football and even played a GAA match some years ago having been fitted with an artificial hip!
“There was never any history of heart problems in my family. I always said if I was able to play in Croke Park at 41, there’s nothing wrong with my heart. But that’s not the way life goes.”
Billy’s warning to members of the public – especially people in their senior years – to not be afraid to seek medical attention comes on the week that it was announced cardiology outpatient appointments and clinics are now gradually resuming at Mayo University Hospital (MUH). In addition, a new dedicated Cardiac Care Unit (CCU) has opened in the hospital. The unit, which was developed as part of the hospital’s Covid-19 planning, has resulted in an increase of 12 monitored specialist cardiology beds. Four of the beds are in the CCU and with newly installed telemetry technology, a further eight beds are based in other medical wards in the hospital where patients will have their cardiac monitoring carried out remotely. These developments have increased the level of monitored bed capacity in MUH by 150 per cent.
Consultant in Cardiovascular Medicine, Dr Fionnuala Lavin, said: “This dedicated cardiac care space and additional capacity to monitor cardiac patients allows us to provide the highest level of care to our cardiac patients. To date 90 patients have been admitted to this new unit and have received this specialised critical care service and have had access to prompt cardiac investigative tests and treatment. This service is run in partnership with University Hospital Galway.
“We are also now resuming many of our clinics that had been paused over the last number of months; these include pacemaker checks and other cardiac clinics. We want to assure our patients that we will be prioritising their safety and that of our staff as we continue to gradually increase the number of clinics and patients treated in the hospital. I would again urge anyone with symptoms of serious illness such as heart attack or stroke to ensure that they do not ignore these symptoms and that they present to the Emergency Department promptly.”
Catherine Donohoe, Hospital Manager Mayo University Hospital, added: “The establishment of this dedicated cardiac care unit is a really important development for critical care at Mayo University Hospital. It provides us with additional specialist ring-fenced cardiac beds for our patients.”
See the Irish Sun’s full interview with Billy Fitzpatrick at https://www.thesun.ie/news/5590822/billy-fitzpatrick-mayo-hospital-heart-scare-lockdown/