Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Stephen Gately: The Heart of the Tragedy

Stephen Gately's mother Margaret has shed a little more light on the issue of the Boyzone singer's sad and sudden demise last Saturday. It appears that there is a heart condition in the family that has claimed a number of members on his father's side. Indeed his mother said:

"As soon as I heard he had died I knew it was a heart problem. It has lifted a huge burden off our family's shoulders."

This initial response from Mrs Gately is borne out by the post mortem which revealed acute pulmonary oedema, a build-up of fluid on his lungs as the cause of death. Most cases are related to heart failure or the early stages of heart disease.

Some readers will be wonder how anyone can get so suddenly find they have heart disease so young. Well from personal experience it is possible to go for years with what is overlooked as a heart condition until something serious happens, fortunately in my case not fatally and manageable. When I as getting examined by my doctor at the time the history that was taken revealed numerous times even when I was competing as a athlete that the signs may well have been there, but they were often put down to a strenuous session or hard fought race. Indeed incidents went back at least 20 years from the time I was finally diagnosed.

It's not that the doctors I've had have not been good but that some conditions are hard to detect and are normally self correcting. Not all of them lead to the same, sad, early conclusion that faced Stephen in Majorca. So while the family are going to get tested it may still not necessarily show up in them all at present. But at least they should well be aware of early symptoms and be watching out for them hopefully and not merely put it down to exhaustion, overworking or whatever.

The other day I commented the other day I shared two names (as well as my surname initial) with Gately. It now turns out we also shared a long undiagnosed heart condition that was discovered in our 30s. There is also a love and ability of singing.

My tribute on Sunday morning was one more or less devoid of personal recollection as the shock was still sinking in. Part of that reason was that Stephen's own coming out was one of the catalysts that made me accept who I was myself and led to my own admission to others of my sexuality.

I guess I had more in common and to thank that fellow Irish boy for.

Hat tip to Paul Walter

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