Getting more out of life after nearly dying
Within days of the cardiac arrest she was diagnosed with Long QT syndrome, a condition that interferes with the electrical system of the heart, making the organ too weak to correct itself when it goes into the wrong rhythm. McGuire was fitted for a defibrillator, a monitoring device attached to the heart, and spent several months in rehab learning to walk and communicate properly again.
At the time of the incident her cardiologist in Australia advised that the extended family be screened for the genetic condition.
McGuire’s 17-year-old cousin, Martina, had died suddenly in her sleep just over 10 years previously, a few days before her Leaving Certificate results came out. It is suspected now that her death was caused by Long QT syndrome. When the family was screened it was discovered that McGuire’s two younger sisters Emma and Joanne and her cousin Mary – Martina’s sister, were also affected.
All three were fitted with defibrillators and continue to live healthy, active lives.
“It’s incredible that in my own immediate family there are four of us with Long QT. If I hadn’t got sick in Australia we would have been oblivious to the danger we were in.
“With the defibrillators we have the security of knowing that if anything happens it will kick in and shock our hearts back into action. We can live normal lives.”
According to Dr Catherine McGorrian, a consultant cardiologist with the Mater hospital, there are about 40 sudden cardiac deaths of young people each year in Ireland – a higher incidence of sudden adult death syndrome (Sads) under 35 years of age than in other countries.
The fact that there are other young people unaware that they may have a life-threatening condition has motivated McGuire to help raise awareness of the Mater hospital’s free screening programme.
“I just want to encourage people to get screened,” she says. “If there is anything in their family history or any deaths in the family that had no clear explanation, they should just go and get tested.
“There are so many causes of Sads and they are able to test for a lot of them. I hope more people avail of it.”
Before leaving Australia in the summer of 2011, McGuire’s boyfriend proposed and the couple are now back living in Limerick. Apart from the fact that she can’t drive because of her loss of peripheral vision, life continues as normal. “I was in hospital for four months and I had a lot of time to think and get things in perspective,” she says. “Life is good.”
The Mater Heart Appeal raises funds for the Mater hospital’s family heart screening clinic. For more information or to donate visit materfoundation.ie