Ronnie Whelan's guilt at mistaking daughter's condition
He is one of Ireland's greatest football players and a legendary Liverpool captain – but when Ronnie Whelan's daughter was diagnosed with a mysterious medical condition, everything else paled into significance.
Elizabeth was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis – a severe muscle-weakening auto-immune disease, which can be fatal if the signs are not spotted.
The symptoms are drooping eyelids, double vision, trouble swallowing, slurred speech or general weakness in the limbs.
A new-look expanded service to support around 300 people suffering from all forms of the disease was launched by the former Ireland star at the Westbury Hotel in Dublin yesterday.
It provides a free helpline to GPs, patients and their families.
Whelan (above) believes there is a low awareness about Myasthenia, revealing how it was only after countless tests that his daughter was diagnosed. The first sign that anything was wrong was when, aged 18, Elizabeth went on a night out and fell down the stairs backwards in a bar.
Countless tests and consultations could reveal nothing definitive. They were told she had "Yuppie flu" or was just a "lazy teen" – and sent her off to the gym to exercise more.
"It was one of the worst things we could have done," said Whelan, explaining that to overwork muscles with myasthenia is bad. "I feel very guilty that I pushed her so hard."
Finally diagnosed 18 months later, Elizabeth began receiving treatment and nine years later is leading a normal life.
Further information on the Myaware campaign is available at www.Myaware.ie.