Monday 26 September 2016

Michael Lyster's new life perspectives

Published 24/08/2015 | 02:30

Michael Lyster still has people asking if he saw a white light. Or God. Or if he looked down on himself from some heavenly vantage point. But, in fact, he says, the reality of his recent heart attack was a lot more mundane.

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"You kind of don't want to disappoint people, but unfortunately there were no angels or anything like that. In fact, I have very little memory of the drama as it unfolded. I collapsed on a Friday night in the living-room and woke up the following Monday, wondering why I was in a hospital bed."

The heart attack had not been a complete bolt from the blue. Michael had suffered from heart failure two years previously and was on medication for it. "I was very sick back then for a couple of weeks and just not feeling myself. When I went in and had the tests done in the Blackrock Clinic it turned out that my heart had run out of steam, it was down to around 15%. Nobody really knows what are the reasons for it, but there is a history of heart conditions in the family. Having said that, heart surgeons will tell you it doesn't work like that - heart conditions in the family are not the only predictors. It's more to do with your own conditioning and lifestyle."

Michael had always imagined that his lifestyle was reasonably healthy. He ate a decent diet, got a moderate amount of exercise and was always passionate about sports, particularly GAA - after three decades at the helm in The Sunday Game he is an institution in the sport - and rally driving.

He says that the latter sport helped him reconcile himself to the fickleness of the heart's workings. "You would go to an event and have the mechanics look at your car and even still it can grind to a halt and you're thinking 'what the hell happened there?' The heart can be a bit like that. A lot depends on if you are caught in time. You could be going along grand and looking forward to the All-Ireland semi-final and then something could happen in the meantime and you just have to resign yourself a little to that uncertainty."

So does the threat of another heart attack feel like a Sword of Damocles hanging over him? "You can't say you're over it completely. Nobody can say that's finished with now. You are aware of the vulnerability of the situation and maybe it is at the back of your mind a bit, but at the same time you do just have to get on with things at a certain point. I think it's important not to worry too much about your health - that might be counterproductive in itself."

Michael says that the tragedy of the balcony collapse in Berkeley, California, which claimed the lives of six Irish J1 students, helped give him some perspective on the scale of his problems. "On the day I was coming home from hospital, we drove past one of the funerals in Foxrock which was taking place. And it did make me think, 'Well, I have a small issue, but the family in there are dealing with something that is so much worse'."

Michael was born in Waterford but grew up in Galway. He began his journalistic career as a junior reporter with The Tuam Herald, and spent seven years with that newspaper before moving to television and radio. He has presented The Sunday Game since 1984 with his calm, even-handed manner providing a great contrast to some of the contributors. He says he's relishing the upcoming championship games and welcomes the distraction from his health issues. "There have been some interesting controversies. I think we also have some mouthwatering clashes coming up and it's great to be back in the thick of it."

Michael Lyster, RTÉ broadcaster and presenter of The Sunday Game is an Ambassador to Lidl Ireland's 2015 Health & Wellness programme - one of Ireland's largest health and wellness programmes in partnership with Laya healthcare.

Sunday Independent

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