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Friday 23 March 2018

'I had massive pain ripping across my tummy' - Norah Casey's brush with death

Businesswoman Norah Casey's heavy workload causes rush to A and E

Recovering: Norah Casey Photo: Tony Gavin
Recovering: Norah Casey Photo: Tony Gavin
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Publisher and broadcaster Norah Casey is recovering this week after working through a ruptured appendix - which forced her to undergo emergency surgery.

The publishing boss only sought medical attention at the behest of a family member.

Ms Casey was subsequently diagnosed with a gangrene appendix - and doctors told her that most people who are in her position "end up in the morgue".

Speaking at home this weekend, the Harmonia chairperson and champion of women in the workplace, described how for five days, she continued to push through chronic pain to meet her hectic work commitments.

"It started on the Monday three weeks ago and I was doubled over with pain. I was pretending it wasn't there.

"By the Thursday and Friday of that week, I had massive pain ripping across my tummy. I had to pull the car in four or five times on the way to work."

On the Friday, her appendix had ruptured, and by the Saturday, she was on the way to a lunch at a friend's home in Co Wicklow when her 17-year-old son Darragh demanded she go to hospital.

After surgeons rushed her to emergency theatre in Dublin's Blackrock Clinic, they told her that most people in her situation, "if they don't get help, are in the morgue".

Now recovering at home, she says: "I do think I had a near-death experience. I definitely feel that I had a lucky escape and I know that my surgeon is at pains to tell me that all the time."

She says: "It is not good that your 17-year-old son is the one who encourages you to go to see a doctor.

"If he hadn't done that, I think I would have ploughed on and this particular lunch was in middle of nowhere. All of my friends say that if I had collapsed at that lunch, there is every chance I wouldn't have had the medical attention I needed."

Commenting on why she continued to work through the pain, she says: "I think I thought the world would stop if I didn't continue working.

"The difficulty for someone who is made the way I am is that I don't actually think I can ever be sick.

"I am in denial most of the time. And this time, I was incredibly unwell and I knew it, but there was this big thing in my subconscious that kept saying, 'You are grand, just get on with it and it will all go away eventually', but it was way beyond human endurance," she said.

Speaking about her work ethic, she said: "I don't see days as divided into 'work versus chilling out'. Some days I don't get up from the computer screen until 10pm at night and I generally work through weekends.

"Everyone in my life has told me I have to take a break and I haven't done that. I definitely think the last while took its toll.

"When your appendix ruptures, and you don't seek help, it is 50/50 death versus life, and I didn't even see it," she says.

Ms Casey has rescheduled her highly anticipated inaugural Festival of Women and Women's Academy event for early next year.

Sunday Independent

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