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Tuesday 28 March 2017

Gay Byrne recovering well after heart attack, says family

Veteran Broadcaster Gay Byrne
Veteran Broadcaster Gay Byrne
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

Veteran broadcaster Gay Byrne (81), pictured left, was recovering in hospital last night following a heart attack.

In a statement issued by RTÉ, his wife Kathleen Watkins and their two daughters said he was recovering well and asked for privacy.

“RTÉ can confirm that Gay Byrne suffered a heart attack yesterday and is recovering well in hospital. The Byrne family have asked for privacy at this time.

“All his friends and colleagues across RTÉ are thinking of him and wish him all the best with his recovery,” it said.

Gay had been spending the festive period surrounded by his family and friends.

However, he was rushed to St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin yesterday after suffering a heart attack.

He previously suffered a health scare in July 2011 at his home in Sandymount, Dublin, when  he was rushed by ambulance to St Vincent’s after he suddenly found himself unable to breathe.

Recounting that terrifying incident, he said: “I felt that my lungs were made of concrete and there was nothing going in. I thought I was going to die, I just couldn’t breathe.”

The former ‘Late, Late Show’ host had been due to return to work following the Christmas holidays to start work on a new series of ‘The Meaning of Life’.

Gay had been enjoying a relaxing Christmas with his family when he suffered the heart attack.

Speaking to the Irish Independent earlier this month about his plans for Christmas, he said: “I will just sit back, let Christmas happen and enjoy all the relaxing and festivities before ‘The Meaning of Life’ starts back again.”

Yesterday evening friends of the legendary broadcaster were unaware that he had fallen ill. However, the news was later confirmed by RTÉ.

It comes after his previous health scare in 2011. On that occasion he was also hospitalised in St Vincent’s and was full of praise for the ambulance paramedics and staff there.

“The ambulance men were the most wonderful, fantastic people. I can remember them saying: ‘Take it easy, take it easy. We will get the mask on you. We’re connecting you to these two machines. Please relax. Everything will be okay. We are going to look after you’,” he later recalled.

But despite his swift treatment, his symptoms continued after he was admitted to the hospital’s A&E department.

“I was in a cubicle there sitting down, gasping for air. It was this problem I had with breathing, but the staff in St Vincent’s were extraordinary and it wasn’t because I was ‘Gay Byrne off the telly’. I was treated the same as everyone else.

“I had to give them my name and address, tell them how old I was and what my symptoms were. I was in there all night listening to all these sick people coming in with different ailments, answering the same questions.

“They were all looked after with huge attention,” he added.

‘Uncle Gaybo’ began his broadcasting career in the 1950s at Granada Studios in Manchester, where he became the first person to introduce The Beatles on screen.

He began working with Raidió Teleifís Éireann in 1961. With a career spanning over 50 years, Gay has been at the centre of some of Irish TV’s most memorable moments. But he is best known for fronting ‘The Late, Late Show’ from 1962 to 1999.

The programme started life as “summer filler” intended to run for six weeks but became RTÉ’s flagship entertainment programme.

Gay was unafraid of controversial subjects such as sex, domestic violence, alcoholism, extramarital pregnancy, and adoption.

He is modest about his role, but he has often been described as a “catalyst for change” in Ireland.

He has also presented ‘The Rose of Tralee’, ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ and ‘For One Night Only’.

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