“I was two years old when I had my first open heart surgery at the Mater. As a child, I imagined there was something very romantic about having a ‘broken heart’. As I got older, I realised more about the impact of my condition. There would be no driving, no college for another few years and no ever getting pregnant…I was so sick at one point that I had my funeral arrangements organised. But I held on to my faith in God and my family and, thanks to my amazing medical team, I recovered.”

Kathleen Treacy has an incredible story of triumph over adversity. Since she was a child, she’s faced down two open heart surgeries, five serious attacks caused by an electrical disorder of the heart, months of sudden palpitations and five hours of surgery while conscious. She ended up impressing her medical team at the Mater so much that they described her as one of the bravest people they’d ever met. Born with Tetralogy of Fallot, Kathleen had four life-threatening defects that affected the structure of her heart. She received her first open heart surgery as a two-year-old baby under the late, renowned surgeon Maurice Neligan.

At 21 years of age, she was told she’d need a second open heart surgery to replace her pulmonary valve. She recovered well and entered a Religious Order while also qualifying as a care assistant.

Six years later, her health had entered a serious decline that forced her to return to her family home in the Curragh. She had begun to suffer SVTs – episodes of extremely elevated heart rate. As a result, Kathleen needed to be fitted with an internal defibrillator at the Mater Hospital as a life-saving measure. Her heart problems were gravely serious. She went in to the Mater for surgery, where she had to remain conscious during the operation. Being fully sedated posed too great a risk to her life. Incredibly, she endured five hours of surgery without moving or flinching. She cried silently during the whole procedure.

“Dr Galvin gave me a lovely compliment after the surgery. He called me one of the bravest people he’d ever met. That meant a lot to me. I’m seventeen years now going to the Mater, so I trusted them completely. The pain… you couldn’t imagine it, but even when it got to the point that I couldn’t really hold on to a thought because of it, I knew that I’d be okay in the end.”

Kathleen photographed in her 30s after her most recent operation in the Mater

With a much improved bill of health today, Kathleen still returns to the Mater for regular check ups for her heart.

“Dr Galvin and his team have looked after me in all my procedures. But through the years I’ve gotten to know many of the staff in the hospital. The nurses, carers, orderlies and porters did a lot to make my stay in the Mater comfortable. And I must mention the care of the paramedics, the Accident and Emergency Department, when I was rushed to hospital after each of the ventricular fibrillation attacks. I’ve already said it to my twin Annie that next year, please God, I’ll do the Women’s Mini Marathon in aid of the Mater Foundation. Even if there’s only a few donations, it’ll be a symbol of thanks for all the help I received.”

If you’d like to support the Mater Foundation and make a real and lasting difference to people like Kathleen, you can take on a challenge to raise funds for patient care. Learn more or make an enquiry by clicking on this link.


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