When people talk about life having those moments that can change it in a heartbeat, it is something that will always hold extra meaning for Shane Hickey.
The Kilmurry Ibrickane stalwart, who has been an ever present in the Brick’s dominance of the club football scene in Clare, added to his medal haul in the 2020 victory over Cratloe on a week that saw him experience the ultimate highs and lows of emotions.
The passing of his grandfather Denis “Junior” Considine was followed just a few days later by the birth of his son Cillian, who joined Shane and his wife Orlaith along with their eldest son Séan and daughter Caoimhe in their family home in Quilty.
The story was not finished there though, as just a couple of weeks later, the Limerick based Garda found himself in the Beacon Hospital in Dublin undergoing heart surgery after being diagnosed with a rare condition which had been lying dormant since birth.
The problem was eventually found to be Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome, which is described as being an extra electrical pathway between the heart’s upper and lower chambers causing a rapid heartbeat.
He outlined how the first signs maifested themselves during Kilmurry’s opening round championship win over Miltown on the first weekend in August.
“During that game, I started feeling dizzy and ended up falling over at one point. I was running back the pitch and I just fell. I jumped back up after a few seconds and just played on. That night, a dinner was organised in Cooney’s so I jumped in the shower when I got home but when I came out, I was feeling as weak as water and sweat was coming out through me so I knew that something was not right. I didn’t know if I had Covid or what the story was but a few days later I booked into the doctor and got bloods done. It is a condition that shows up on an ECG and that is what initially flagged it. I had a Holter monitor put on for a weekend so that was sent off for analysis and the diagnosis came back a month or so later” Shane recalled.
It was something that took the former county star by surprise, and the prospect of what being diagnosed with a heart condition could mean was something he admits took time to adjust to.
“It came out of the blue and to use one of those famous words over the last year, it was asymptomatic. It is asymptomatic in most people but the most common signs are fainting, anxiety, palpations, dizziness and that kind of thing. The first time I heard of it was when I went to Dublin to the cardiologist and he told me that it was something I had since birth. It never bothered me in the slightest all my life until that day when we played Miltown, that was the first time I ever really felt any symptoms of it. I would be someone that always tried to eat healthily and exercise is something that I try to do in some shape or form every day. I try to have as little unhealthy habits as possible so it did come as an awful surprise to me. These things can just can pop up out of the blue like that sometimes. When I heard the initial diagnosis that there was something wrong with my heart, that was very worrying. In the end, it was minor enough in my mind from what it could have been. You hear stories that other people have suffered through with cancer and the likes, and that can have a huge impact on them”, he noted.
With 2019 seeing Hickey suffer only his second ever county final defeat since joining the Kilmurry senior panel , the prospect of making up for that loss was one which drove the eight time championship winner to make the decision to postpone any procedure until after last year’s final.
“I told the cardiologist that I had a game to play. He didn’t advise me against it but he wasn’t all for it either” he laughed.
The events surrounding that game were something that he felt allowed him to approach it with a renewed focus and a sense of making the most of the opportunity.
“It really put things into perspective and I don’t think I have ever been so calm before going out to play a final. My son Cillian was born and my grandfather passed away in the same week leading up to the game. That is how life works I suppose, you have to deal with death and you also have new life coming into the world. It is the way the wheel rolls I guess. One thing about these lockdowns is that we have a lot more time to think about life in general. I have gone back to the cardiologist since and thankfully it seems to have gone. The concerning thing about it is that it can come back again but at the moment I am in the all clear category” he said.
It was not long after the recovery period had passed until he was back out running the roads and beach around his native Quilty once more. Outside of the sporting element, he feels that having an outlet to engage in exercise is vital in building a healthy routine.
“I am one of these people that hates doing the hard work while it has to be done, but it is when you get it finished, have the shower and put on fresh clothes, you feel like a million dollars after it. It is just that feeling and I don’t know how to fully describe it. I had to take a break for a month after the procedure but every day I was itching to do something. You can easily get into a rut and slip into a routine of just sitting around the place doing nothing and that can become the norm then. I was anxious to get back out as soon as I could. I get the odd weird beat every now and again but the cardiologist said that is just the heart learning to beat reguarly again in a different way. I am getting up to somewhere near full fitness again and I think we are all eager to get on with things again in 2021” he said.
He has no intention of hanging up the boots just yet and while any certainty around how the sporting year might pan out is a long way off, he feels there has been some positives in the changes to the sporting calendar as a result of Covid-19.
“I never enjoyed a club championship as much as last year and even from a county point of view, who wouldn’t have loved to be involved with Clare? I know they were knocked out too early but it was a nice short sharp campaign rather than the usual ten month haul that can get monotonous at times and take over everything. It was all over in a few months and peoples lives were not on hold. If I was still involved with the county I know it is something that I would prefer rather than the long drawn out process” he concluded.