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Marathon man Ernesto has gift of life to keep him going

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: {J}

AS a youngster Ernesto Antonio often wondered where he’d be spending New Year’s Eve on the night of the millennium, but in his wildest dreams he could never have imagined what the answer would be.

On December 31, 1999 while most of the country was out partying, Ernesto was the Mater Hospital, recovering from the life-saving heart transplant he had received the previous October.

Until he was in his mid-30s, Ernesto, who was born in Bushypark in Galway City, was a fit and healthy man. His mother who was from Louth had met his Hong Kong-born father, a Portuguese Malaysian while she was working as a nurse in China. Their first child Juliana was born in Hong Kong, Ernesto and his brother José were born here after the Antonios settled in Galway in 1963 where his father, an engineer, worked with Hibernian as an assessor.

Ernesto followed his mother into the nursing profession, training at the city’s then Regional Hospital in the early 1980s before emigrating to England for work in 1987. There he met and married his English-born wife Kate.

He’d always been very fit, cycling and walking everywhere, and in 1998 he took part in a charity ride across the Middle East in memory of a friend who had died of leukaemia. The following April he developed a bad chest infection, which didn’t clear up. His specialist kept treating him for asthma, despite Ernesto’s protestations that asthma wasn’t the problem, it was his heart. He was ignored.

That August, he made his annual pilgrimage home on holidays with Kate and their five-year old daughter, Isabella. He was progressively getting more exhausted and was no longer able to exercise.

This formerly fit 36-year old spent the day of his niece’s birthday party, August 9, 1999 in bed and the following day, went to his own doctor, who diagnosed heart failure and said he needed to go to hospital urgently.

But, when he arrived at A&E the following morning he was told there was nothing wrong with his heart and was sent to Merlin Park. The registrar there “took one look at me, uttered a few expletives and ordered an ambulance to send me to coronary care”.

Things went from bad to worse, as he went into renal and liver failure. He was put on dialysis until his kidney function began to return. His liver also recovered, but his heart did not.

Blood tests diagnosed Q Fever and another virus which was never diagnosed. Humans generally get Q Fever as a result of breathing in contaminated droplets released by infected animals. One effect of the infection is inflammation of the heart wall which can lead to heart failure. There was a theory that Ernesto might have contracted it in the Middle East, but not necessarily, he says. It had also been found in deer at the local park in Essex where he cycled.

On September 11, 1999, his cardiologist in Galway told him that he needed a heart transplant and sent him to the Mater for assessment. Ernesto’s condition was so serious that he was sent immediately to Intensive Care, where a balloon pump was utilised to circulate the blood around his body, as his heart was no longer capable of doing so.

Kate was with him at all stages, while Isabella had stayed in Galway with his sister Juliana. Shortly after he was admitted, a heart became available and he was prepared for an operation. But it turned out the heart was too small.

“I felt then, and I said it to Kate that it would be the third heart before the right one came along,” he recalls. He was right.

He’d been hoping against hope to have his transplant by October 20, 1999 as that was Isabella’s sixth birthday. But it didn’t happen. The family celebrated her birthday in Ernesto’s cubicle in Intensive Care, with Ernesto on an oxygen mask and six candles on her cake, despite the oxygen. She still says it was her best ever.

Kate, Isabella and Ernesto’s family did not give up hope, he recalls.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Henshaw and McSharry set to field for Irish Wolfhounds in clash with England Saxons

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

CONNACHT’S rising stars Robbie Henshaw and Dave McSharry look set to named in the starting xv for the Ireland Wolfhounds who face the England Saxons in Galway this weekend when the team is announced later today (Thursday).

Robbie Henshaw is the only out-and-out full-back that was named Tuesday in the 23-man squad that will take on the English at the Sportsground this Friday (7.45pm).

Connacht’s centre McSharry and Ulster’s Darren Cave are the only two specialist centres named in the 23 man squad, which would also suggest the two youngsters are in line for a starting place.

Former Connacht out-half, Ian Keatley, Leinster’s second out-half Ian Madigan and Ulster’s number 10 Paddy Jackson and winger Andrew Trimble, although not specialist full-backs or centres, can all slot into the 12, 13 and 15 jerseys, however you’d expect the Irish management will hand debuts to Henshaw and McSharry given that they’ll be playing on their home turf.

Aged 19, Henshaw was still playing Schools Cup rugby last season. The Athlone born Connacht Academy back burst onto the scene at the beginning of the season when he filled the number 15 position for injured captain Gavin Duffy.

The Marist College and former Ireland U19 representative was so assured under the high ball, so impressive on the counter-attack and astute with the boot, that he retained the full-back position when Duffy returned from injury.

Connacht coach Eric Elwood should be commended for giving the young Buccaneers clubman a chance to shine and Henshaw has grasped that opportunity with both hands, lighting up the RaboDirect PRO 12 and Heineken Cup campaigns for the Westerners this season.

Henshaw has played in all 19 of Connacht’s games this season and his man-of-the-match display last weekend in the Heineken Cup against Zebre caught the eye of Irish attack coach, Les Kiss.

“We’re really excited about his development. He had to step into the breach when Connacht lost Gavin Duffy, and he was playing 13 earlier in the year. When he had to put his hand up for that, he’s done an exceptional job,” Kiss said.

The 22-year-old McSharry was desperately unlucky to miss out on Declan Kidney’s Ireland squad for the autumn internationals and the Dubliner will relish the opportunity this Friday night to show-off his speed, turn of foot, deft hands and finishing prowess that has been a mark of this season, in particular, with Connacht.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Drinks battle brewing as kettle sales go off the boil

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

You’d have thought there might have been three certainties in Irish life – death, taxes and the cup of tea – but it now seems that our post-tiger sophistication in endangering the consumption of the nation’s second favourite beverage.

Because with all of our new-fangled coffee machines, percolators, cappuccino and expresso makers, sales of the humble kettle are falling faster than our hopes of a write-off on the promissory note.

And even when we do make tea, we don’t need a tea pot – it’s all tea bags these days because nobody wants a mouthful of tea leaves, unless they’re planning to have their fortune told.

Sales of kettles are in decline as consumers opt for fancy coffee makers, hot water dispensers and other methods to make their beverages – at least that’s the case in the UK and there’s no reason to think it’s any different here.

And it’s only seems like yesterday when, if the hearth was the heart of every home, the kettle that hung over the inglenook fireplace or whistled gently on the range, was the soul.

You’d see groups gathered in bogs, footing turf and then breaking off to boil the battered old kettle for a well-earned break.

The first thing that happened when you dropped into someone’s home was the host saying: “Hold on until I stick on the kettle.”

When the prodigal son arrived home for the Christmas, first item on the agenda was a cup of tea; when bad news was delivered, the pain was eased with a cuppa; last thing at night was tea with a biscuit.

The arrival of electric kettles meant there was no longer an eternal search for matches to light the gas; we even had little electric coils that would boil water into tea in our cup if you were mean enough or unlucky enough to be making tea for one.

We went away on sun holidays, armed with an ocean of lotion and a suitcase full of Denny’s sausages and Barry’s Tea. Spanish tea just wasn’t the same and there was nothing like a nice brew to lift the sagging spirits.

We even coped with the arrival of coffee because for a long time it was just Maxwell House or Nescafe granules which might have seemed like the height of sophistication – but they still required a kettle.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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