Saturday 24 February 2018

Former Tipperary hurler 'very lucky' to be alive after violent seizure on family holiday

'As it turned out, the seizure was bad enough that the kids woke. It went on for about ten minutes'

Ken Dunne in action for Tipp in 2006 and (inset) pictured in Cork University hospital after brain surgery
Ken Dunne in action for Tipp in 2006 and (inset) pictured in Cork University hospital after brain surgery
Ken Dunne pictured in Cork University hospital after brain surgery

Jackie Cahill

Former Tipperary hurler Ken Dunne says that he's "very lucky" to be alive after he underwent emergency brain surgery last April.

Dunne, his wife Helen and their children, Molly and KJ, were on a family outing to Fota Island in Cork during the Easter holidays, when he suffered a violent seizure in the middle of the night.

The Toomevara clubman, who lines out in next Sunday's Seamus O'Riain Cup final against Roscrea at Semple Stadium, was transferred to Cork University Hospital, where a lump the size of an orange on the right side of his brain was removed.

Dunne, brother of Tipp All-Ireland winners Tommy and Benny, is now on daily anti-seizure medication but has made a remarkable recovery - and was back training with Toomevara within five weeks of his operation.

Dunne, who made three senior championship appearances for the Premier County in 2006, tells his story on Tipp FM's Straight Talk programme, which will air from 6-7pm this evening.

He explains how he was playing hurling and football with KJ on the pitches at the Fota Island resort on a Friday evening, when he experienced a slight pain in his head.

But free-scoring Dunne, who also hurled in the minor and U-21 grades for Tipp, thought nothing of it and enjoyed a meal before retiring to bed.

He said: "I turned out the light between ten and half ten…after that, I don't remember much.

"I just woke up in the middle of the night. Molly was standing beside my bed with her clothes on, I was going 'there's something going on here'.

"Helen was up with her clothes on, KJ was a little bit upset. Then I noticed a guy from the hotel in the room on the phone. I was looking around for a while, a little bit bemused. Helen said, 'look, you're after having some kind of seizure, we've called the ambulance.'

"Afterwards, when Helen was telling me, she thought I was having a bad dream, about 2.15 in the morning.

"She put her hand over, to see if I was OK but as soon as she put her hand over, she knew there was something up, and I was having a fairly physical, aggressive seizure. She turned the lights on, my body was in convulsions. As it turned out, it was bad enough that the kids woke. It went on for about ten minutes."

Dunne, who will turn 40 on Monday, was in hospital within an hour and scanned on Saturday.

He says: "They said there was something on the right side of my brain, but he was very confident from the word go that it was benign. We were delighted to hear that but it definitely caused the seizure and had to come out."

Dunne underwent an eight-and-a-half-hour surgery on Monday.

He recalls: "It took me a while to come to. I eventually got talking to the neurosurgeon (Michael O'Sullivan). They opened my skull, split me from ear to ear, clamped my skull open and whatever was in there ballooned out. It wasn't a brain tumour as such, a mucoid cyst, kind of messy. When the skull opened, it relieved all of the pressure. It was about the size of an orange and he had to go about cleaning it up."

Dunne was in bed until Wednesday morning but well enough, then, to get up, use the bathroom, and walk up and down corridors and stairs.

He was released home on the Thursday and explains: "We went back down to get the stitches out and it was quite frightening that day.

"They showed us the scans (pre and post-operation) and you could see the front, right-hand side of my brain was a black blob (pre-op). That was a scary experience. But he said it was all good, all out.

"Three things - it was very rare, very large and you're very lucky.

"It originated before I was born, in the embryonic stage. Part of my intestine in the stomach that grew in the wrong place and over time, it got bigger and bigger.

"He was amazed how I even got through childhood without anything happening to me and when I told him I played contact sport, hurling all my life, he couldn't believe it that if I got a shoulder, a dunt, a belt in the head, that something didn't trigger.

"I've had stitches in my head, we've all been to hospital but I've never had a scan on my head as such. If I had, it would have shown up straight away.

"It just goes to show how lucky I was, a very lucky man to have survived it."

Dunne has been advised not to drive until next April but if the surgeon is happy with his progress, he could be back on the road shortly.

During the course of a wide-ranging interview, Dunne admits the family was "distraught" when Benny was sent off in the 2009 All-Ireland final against Kilkenny but it turned to elation a year later, when Tipp denied the Cats their five-in-a-row.

"I remember coming out under the Cusack Stand that day…seeing Tommy under the stand on the phone, trying to get to talk to somebody to get into the dressing room.

"We were distraught and you have to listen to guys going out along. It's very hard, your head is down and your heart is low. It wasn't easy but redemption in 2010 makes it all worthwhile."

Irish Independent

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