'I am so lucky I came out the other side'

Story by Deirdre Verney

Friday, 4th January, 2019 12:13pm

'I am so lucky I came  out the other side'

Ruairi Aspell

Deirdre Verney

Ruairi Aspell hopes to return to the famous Swiget music festival in Budapest in the future, and this time to actually enjoy the bands.

However, he jokes that his mother will not let him out of the country for some time yet after the eventful call she received last summer.
In a darkly ironic twist which he can laugh heartily about now, it was his first big trip away at 19, and he agreed to text his parents Dave and Marie everyday, and in his own witty way he kept it brief. 
The text on the first two days simply read: “Alive”. There was no text on the third day. Instead of catching The Arctic Monkeys and Mumford and Sons, Ruairí was rushed to a Budapest hospital on August 9, where he was told he had a brain haemorrhage, and they would be operating the following day.
While memories of that week are admittedly hazy, the young student has a vivid description of the intense pain that fateful morning in his tent.
“I woke up with a real bad pain in my head. I couldn't see a thing. It was a real intense pressure on my head like as there wasn't enough space for my brain.
"I managed to get out of the tent, sort of swan dived out and my friend (Shane) was there. I just thought I might have had bad heatstroke because it was warm over there, about 30 degrees,” he recalls.
But it couldn't have been further from a heatstroke as it turned out. Thankfully, his quick-thinking friend Shane Seery was in the Order of Malta in Athlone and knew what to do, quickly realising the gravity of the situation. 
Keeping calm he got him to the medical tent where they thought he might have been drinking or taken something, he hadn't. 
He was brought to the "excellent” national institute of neurosurgery and taken for a brain scan. The next thing Ruairi remembers is waking up with two doctors at the end of the bed.
“They just told me that the scan showed a brain aneurysm which had ruptured causing a brain haemorrhage and they were going to have to operate on it the next morning."
Thankfully, the operation was a success and he was actually over it by the time his parents managed to get a flight amid many phone calls and worries back home. 

He is full of praise for Shane who was a "serious help" on this front keeping everyone in the loop and helping him in the hospital. 
“Physically, I'm so lucky I came out the other side. I don't even have a scar because luckily where it was I didn't have to have my head shaved. They put it through the artery in your groin, put it through your heart. 
“They put in little titanium coils and fill the hole at the edge of the artery with that and that closes it off then.
“It shows how far medicine has come and what the research is doing. That I'm so well just shows it's working,” he says smiling, adding that luckily he was in training for a Triathlon at the time, something he believes helped in his recovery.
“One in 50 people are born with it (an aneurysm). In 70% of cases they will live their life without knowing about it. It was just unlucky for it to rupture especially when I so young...I feel perfect now, I'm back working and driving."
Ruairí subsequently spent two and half weeks in hospital in Budapest before being allowed home. He says he felt very tired afterwards, an expected after effect of a brain injury. One thing that did worry him however, was the double vision he had for several weeks but that too passed, thankfully.
"I had that for about two months but in the space of a few weeks that cleared up so I was very lucky that way. So overall, I was unlucky to get it (the brain haemorrhage), but I was lucky that I'm so good afterwards. I'm just as good as I was before."
He is fiercely appreciative of all the people who rallied around his parents and family with messages and help. Now, he is keen to put that goodwill to good use as he knows lots of others are not as lucky as he was.
Athlone Regional Sports Centre, where he works, have very kindly stepped in to help with his fundraising effort by letting him take over their 10,000 metre swim now called 'Swim to Recovery' on February 3.
“They are giving me massive help with the fundraiser which is a challenge they have been doing for the last few years. They've been very generous in letting me jump in on their challenge to fundraise for the Order of Malta, Athlone, the hospital I was in Budapest, and the Stroke Clinical Trial Network Ireland which specialises in research into the treatment and prevention of stroke.” 
While it's considered the marathon equivalent in swimming, Ruairí stresses it can be broken up and completed with a team or in a relay. Training plans along with help and guidance are available in the centre for anyone interested in joining Ruairí in the challenge.
“We have roughly about 100 signed up now. It's excellent and it's really testament to the swimmers in there and the staff for encouraging people to go on. We're hoping to get 150.
“It's €20 to register and the Athlone Regional Sports Centre is matching that €20 which is very generous of them,” he says, also thanking the many businesses who have provided sponsorship, Moate Community School which has run fundraisers for him, Ardnagrath NS, the local GAA club, and everyone in the local community. “It's hard to pick out one person when so many people have been good to you.”
Having seen enough of Jeremy Kyle to last a lifetime, the 20-year-old laughs that he is just delighted to be back working and doing normal things. He admits the experience has changed him to the extent that he tries to see the bigger picture, doesn't put things off anymore and is determined to live life to the full.
While Ruairí deferred his place to study medicine in NUIG Galway until next year, being on the other side of the table certainly hasn't put him off that goal. In fact, now he may even go into the research side in future given what he has been through.
“What the doctor said to me is that you're one of the lucky ones. It might sound mad but they said you know you had one aneursym, it's fixed now and you've been checked for others ones. Others that haven't been checked and they are the real risky people. It's a mad way of thinking of it.”

Anyone interested in taking part in Ruairí's 'Swim to Recovery' challenge can call Athlone Regional Sports Centre 090 64 70975 or donate on his fundraising page https://www.gofundme.com/ruairi039s-039swim-to-recovery039-challenge