WHEN Abbeydorney man Ger McCarthy realised, back in January 2011, that he found it difficult to stay standing, he knew there was something very serious going on.
When he was walking, his ankles would go from under him and he had pains in his hips and knee caps.
The current hurling officer with Kerry County Board, Ger admits now that the problem had probably been ongoing for two or three years, during which time his energy levels were extremely low and he was having trouble digesting certain types of food, particularly beef and steak.
"I went to my local doctor to get my blood pressure tested and he insisted on doing full bloods, as he wasn't happy," Ger recalls. "I was immediately referred to Kerry General Hospital and I suppose, to be honest, I got a big shock as this was the first time I'd ever been in this position. I was healthy but had neglected myself over the years by not eating properly and not getting regular check up and I had also been working very long hours in agricultural and plant contracting."
While at Kerry General Hospital, doctors confirmed a diagnosis of Haemochromatosis and explained the seriousness of of this and the problems that it could cause," Ger said. "He explained the treatment involved and started that very day taking off blood [a procedure known as venesection]. I had a ferritin level of almost 7,000 which was extremely high and needed to be brought down to as low as 50."
For the next two months, Ger went to hospital every week for venesection procedures, and soon realised the stiffness and pains were easing. He also met with a dietician and gave him a strict diet to follow, and also discussed his sugar levels to avoid late onset diabetes.
"As the months went by I could find myself getting better. I had lots more energy and less pains and aches," Ger said. "By Christmas my ferritin level was down to 50 and it was the best Christmas present I ever got."
Almost two years on, Ger continues to have regular check ups to keep an eye on his ferritin levels, and is continuing with his healthy diet, and is glad to report he is fighting fit.
Like many, however, he was completely unaware of Haemochromatosis until his own diagnosis, and is encouraging anyone who has any doubts about how they feel to get their blood checked. I
"It could actually save their lives," he insists.