'Miracle man' swims Galway Bay in aid of cancer services


A HEART transplant survivor who is better known as “miracle man” was one of 20 swimmers to cross Galway Bay at the weekend to raise money for cancer support services.

Ernesto Antonio (46) was given hours to live in 1999, due to a chronic cardiac illness. However, Antonio, who formerly lived in Bushy Park in Galway and now lives in Essex, received a donated heart.

The father of one and qualified nurse has participated in English Channel relay swimming, and holds the record for the fastest marathon ever by a person with a heart transplant. He has also completed five Olympic distance triathlons.

The participants endured strong tidal currents during the Frances Thornton fifth memorial event, as they swam from the north Clare coast to Salthill, Galway on Saturday.

The first swimmer home was the event co-organiser, Galway man Ronan Collins, who finished in three hours and three minutes.

The oldest participant, Martin McCarthy (55), also completed the course from Aughinish, Co Clare to Salthill’s Blackrock diving tower.

“It took five hours and 33 minutes, but I didn’t feel the cold,” Mr McCarthy told The Irish Times.

He didn’t wear a wetsuit and sustained himself with energy drinks suspended from an accompanying safety boat. “I thought Jaffa Cakes would be good, but when I tried to eat one it turned to liquid,” he said.

More than 50 swimmers have completed the crossing since the swim was initiated five years ago and over €160,000 has been raised for Cancer Care West.

The event is named in memory of the late Frances Thornton, and her son Kevin is both swimmer and fellow organiser.