Get on your bike for the Irish Heart Foundation

By June Shannon Heart News   |   24th May 2021

GAA star taking on the famous Ring of Kerry Cycle to give back to the charity that supported him in his darkest hour in 2012.

Cormac Ryan, a former Dublin minor hurling player who was diagnosed with a serious heart condition at the age of just 18, has urged the country to get on their bikes and take part in the 170km virtual Ring of Kerry charity cycle for the Irish Heart Foundation.

The Irish Heart Foundation is thrilled to have been selected as one of the beneficiaries of the 2021 “170km My Way” alternative Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle and 28-year-old Cormac would love you to join our team.

Anyone who would like to participate in the ‘170k My Way’ cycle can complete it in a day, a week or over a month between June 3 and July 3. It is hoped 10,000 people will take part – all cycling their own chosen route, with the Irish Heart Foundation among the charity beneficiaries in 2021.

At 18, Cormac, who won a Leinster minor hurling title with Dublin, began to suffer fainting and dizzy spells on the pitch.

His symptoms continued and he was fitted with a 24-hour Holter monitor – but just hours after leaving it back to the hospital in February 2012, he received an urgent call to attend the emergency department immediately.

“I was devastated…my first thought was hurling, because I was sport obsessed."

Cormac Ryan

Cormac was admitted to the coronary care unit where he was to stay for two weeks and he received a diagnosis of atrioventricular (AV) block.

AV Block is a condition where the electrical signals in the heart are disrupted and can cause the heart to skip beats leading to an abnormal heart rhythm which affects the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the body. Cormac learned that in his case his heart was regularly skipping beats and his heart rate was dropping dangerously low at night.

Cormac, originally from Dublin but now working as a physiotherapist in Cork, was told he would need to be fitted with a pacemaker.

“I was devastated…my first thought was hurling, because I was sport obsessed. Generally, with pacemakers, contact sport is out of the question,” he said.

His medical team inserted the pacemaker deeper into his chest wall and he was also provided with a special protective vest to wear so 12 months after his diagnosis he could resume hurling, making it onto the Dublin U-21 panel and lining out for his club, Whitehall Colmcille.

Cormac said that the experience took its toll and he became quite withdrawn for several years.

“For a year or two I got quite depressed, I wasn’t sleeping and I wasn’t very active,” he said.

“It can make you wrap yourself in cotton wool and be very hesitant to do anything, or it can give you a kick in the backside ….for me it was like a wake-up call, like a scare to make you embrace life and make the most of it,” he added.

“Fundraising activities such as these are so vital to our work supporting patients,”

Anne Riordan, Public Engagement Manager., The Irish Heart Foundation

This is not Cormac’s first charity venture – he has organised and participated in several gruelling cycles, raising thousands of euro for the Irish Heart Foundation and other charities.

Since 1982, almost €16million for 160 charity organisations has been raised through the Ring of Kerry cycle.

Cormac’s strength, resilience and determination to see his pacemaker as an experience that has benefitted rather than diminished his quality of life is truly inspirational.

Asked why he decided to sign up to the Ring of Kerry Virtual Cycle in aid of the Irish Heart Foundation he said it was because he wanted to thank the charity for all the support he received when he was first diagnosed.

As taking the easy way out is obviously not in his nature, Cormac has committed to finding a 170km course over the hilliest terrain near where he now lives in Cork, in an effort to keep his virtual Ring of Kerry Cycle as true to the challenging original course as possible.

“Fundraising activities such as these are so vital to our work supporting patients. We are delighted we have been selected as one of the charities to benefit from this year’s alternative Ring of Kerry,” said Anne Riordan, Public Engagement Manager with the Irish Heart Foundation.

Registration for the cycle is now open, sign up to join the Irish Heart Foundation team here.

Entry fee is €35, plus post and packaging costs of €4 per t-shirt.

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charity charity cycle fundraising heart condition pacemaker

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