Monday 26 August 2019

'He has a window of opportunity' - Parents of GAA star who suffered stroke on pitch in bid to help him speak and walk again

Marty Morrissey, Adam Burke, and Davy Fitzgerald at the RTÉ Adam Burke Fundraiser Launch. Conleths Park, Newbridge, Co Kildare. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Marty Morrissey, Adam Burke, and Davy Fitzgerald at the RTÉ Adam Burke Fundraiser Launch. Conleths Park, Newbridge, Co Kildare. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Jane Last

Jane Last

A Kildare minor GAA player who suffered a life-changing stroke while playing for his club says his "dream is alive" that he will be able to regain full speech and movement.

Adam Burke was just 20 years of age when he suffered a stroke while playing for Twomilehouse in Co Kildare, on July 20, 2016.

Days later, his parents Willie and Catherine were told their son had just a 20 per cent chance of survival, and even if he lived, his chances that he would be able to walk, talk or interact again were slim.

Despite the odds, Adam has survived - but the quality of treatment for speech and physical therapies to help Adam make a full recovery could come to €1 million.

Speaking on RTE Radio One's Sean O'Rourke show on Friday, Willie Burke said the family wished to highlight that a stroke can occur at any age.

Catherine and Willie accompanied their son, who is now undergoing speech therapy.

Before the event, Adam was a excelled at sport, having played rugby, soccer and GAA.

At the time of his stroke, Adam was playing for Kildare minors, and was preparing to return to UCD.

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On the day in question, Adam was togging out for his club along with his brother Christopher.

His father Willie travelled to see him play and was tracking Adam throughout the match.

Willie noted nothing unusual - his son got a heavy tackle in the first half but was tended to and was able to finish the half.

"He went in at half time and then they changed ends, and he came back to down to where we were standing at the railings.

"He was very close to us. His position was full forward and then he started to drift over to us," Willie told the RTE programme.

But then something changed in Adam - and moments later he was fighting for his life.

"He was dragging his man before the start of the game. And our eyes met. And I could tell something was wrong. He was very grey. But then for some strange reason, he got a second wind and started to play well again.

"I watched him. I don't know why I kept looking at him.

"Suddenly I saw him in the midfield on his own and he put his hands to his head. And he then fell, just as gently as you like, his knees were bent and he fell just as gentle as you like to the ground and on his back.

"I jumped over the fence, ran [over] to him and took him by the hand. I could tell he was in terrible trouble and he just wanted to get up, it looked like, his left side was moving, his right side never moved. The physio had him by his neck, holding his head, and telling us to hold his legs, in case it was a back injury or a spine injury.

"His eyes were open but his eyes were up in the back of his head. He was groaning and moaning and making noises. We were speaking to him saying 'ah you're okay Adam'. He never responded," Willie said.

"I tracked him all day and I had seen him fall and I knew there was something wrong

Adam was rushed from the GAA pitch to Naas hospital.

"Before he got into the ambulance, I said to my brother 'I think he's after having a stroke' I said it quietly. I didn't say it loud enough. And I regret that."

Willie said the main reason the family were doing the interview was to highlight a stroke can happen at any age, even to a athletic young man at the tender age of 20.

Adam was soon transferred from Naas to Beaumont Hospital where a consultant met with the family.

"We arrived in Beaumont and they were all waiting for us and it was bedlam really. And we had to sign documentation. They wanted to take him down to for a procedure on him and they told us he was critically ill at that moment," Adam's mother Catherine told the programme.

"He got far worse in the days to come.

"Subsequently, he was brought up to ICU, and on Saturday morning, we were told that Adam had a scan, [and] his brain was swelling.

"A neuro-surgeon had to perform a life-saving operation on him to remove his skull cap and let his brain swell naturally.

"The operation took several hour.

"And then we were given the news that he had a 20pc chance of living, and that if he did live, his chance of communicating, walking, talking or interacting with us was... a very slim chance.

"But I didn't care really. I just prayed and wished that he would come back to us," Catherine said.

The mother said the last year has been very difficult for the family who have "been through the mill".

"We suffered, but not as much as Adam has suffered."

Adam was in a coma for two weeks after the operation - staff in Beaumont managed to bring Adam out of the coma "naturally".

Upon coming round, Adam appeared to recognise family members, using his left hand to reach out while the entire right side of his body remained paralysed.

"It gave us great hope to carry on for the future and in those dark days, a light was beginning to shine."

Willie explained that Adam's body is still continuing to grow due to his young age.

Therefore the chance of a full recovery - reclaiming full speech and full movement - from the devastating stroke could be within his grasp.

"He has a window of opportunity. He is only a young man.

"And his brain is able to find new paths and new ways.

"He can learn to speak again of course," his dad said.

To this end, Adam requires "quality" therapy to help him with his goal. The family praised the public system for getting Adam through to this stage.

The GAA, Adam's friends, family and neighbours have set up a trust fund for the young man.

A 5k/10k run for Adam will be taking place on September 30th.

And after the run, RTE Sports broadcaster Marty Morrissey will MC a special live GAA panel show consisting of Davy Fitzgerald, Michael Duignan, Joe Brolly and Tomas O Se.

For more information about the event, or if you wish to donate, please check out

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