Getting Back in the Game

May 11th, 2019 | Club notes

Getting Back in the Game

Gregory Walsh

In 2012, aged 41, I was an active GAA referee for my club St. Mary’s GAC Aghagallon ; for my own County of Antrim, and at Provincial and National level. I had refereed two Antrim Senior Finals, Ulster Finals and National games.

Early in 2012 I felt shortness of breath whilst training for the National Referees fitness test. In April, I was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition which enlarged my heart and reduced its working capacity to less than 15% of a heart’s normal capacity. As a consequence, I was no longer able to do anything of a physical nature and had to give up refereeing.  I did continue to be involved in the GAA and in refereeing, becoming secretary of the Antrim Referees Committee. I became a referee tutor and advisor and was invited to join the National Referees Advisory Panel.

For 6 years I lived with heart failure managed, through drug therapy, by the expertise of Craigavon Hospital & Royal Papworth Hospital, Cambridge. During 2017 my condition worsened and it became clear I needed a lifesaving heart transplant.  In late December 2017 I received the call I, and, my family & friends had been hoping for; the call telling me that a suitable heart had become available. I underwent lifesaving heart transplant surgery in Royal Papworth Hospital on New Year’s Day 2018.

In the UK around 250 people a year need a heart transplant but less than 50% are offered a viable heart in time to save their lives. I was incredibly fortunate to receive a heart.  That is why I am raising money to help fund the hospital’s pioneering ‘Non-beating heart` transplant programme which enables surgeons to use donor hearts which were previously not viable for transplant. The success of this programme, is dependent on charitable support in addition to the funding received from the NHS.

I want to support that programme so that more people can have the second chance at life that my heart transplant has given me. I also want to demonstrate that I am now living life to the full and with the support of Ulster GAA and all the counties in the Province I have set myself a challenge to referee a game in each of the 9 counties. Meeting this challenge will be a testament to the expertise of the medical staff at Royal Papworth and a testament to the gift made to me by my donor.

Many people don’t realise that their family’s support is needed for organ donation to go ahead.  Make sure your family know you want to be an organ donor.  Join the NHS Organ Donor Register and talk to your family about your wishes regarding organ donation.

This game today is part of my challenge and I would like to thank your County board for appointing me to this game.

I would like to thank my wife Catherine, our children Roseand Dominic, family, friends, and the GAA community for their support and prayers over the last 7 years, which kept me strong and has helped me Get Back in the Game.

I ask you to help others Get Back in their Game by donating during half time of today`s game or by donating at my justgiving page details above – Gregory’s Back in the Game.