Olympic torch November 2012
Olympian efforts for the Heart Hospital

The Olympics are over – but UCLH Charity has been given a little bit of history to help us remember the glory days of 2012.

Martha Byrne, whose husband Ciaran was a patient at the Heart Hospital, has donated one of the 6,000 original Olympic torches to the hospital, and it will be displayed to remind patients – and staff – that we can all achieve wonders if we try.

Martha’s JustGiving page, which she set up in order to fundraise for the Grown Up Congenital Heart Fund of UCLH Charity, contains a wonderful evocation of Ciaran, who died in 2010.

“Ciaran was born with a complex heart condition, comprising of transposition of the great vessels. Today an operation known as "the switch" is performed on infants with this condition and most do not need further invasive treatment. If "the switch" isn't undertaken at an early stage the heart and lungs are irrecoverably damaged and most infants do not live for long. The surgery was not available to Ciaran as the technique was still being explored when he was a tiny tot.

“However without the operation and to everyones surprise Ciaran somehow managed to live. He had to put a tremendous amount of effort in, to be able to do day to day things that most of us take for granted. He never complained or considered himself at a disadvantage. He was pretty unique.

“His heart condition did not deter him from achieving and making a significant contribution to companies and people he met. Most people didn't realise he had a heart condition.

“He loved work and in particular sharing knowledge, in honesty, it was what drove him. His career has spanned blue-chip financial institutions, as well as manufacturing, legal and global news media organisations. He contributed to working on IT strategies, system architectures and business plans, all the way through the software development lifecycle.
Ciar-in-Napa-California“Ciaran had a low tolerance for individuals who didn't appreciate or have the same passion for achievement. He expected people to work at his level, which wasn't always realistic! Ok, so nobody is perfect, but he came pretty close.

“Ciaran was one of the people you hoped might drop in, as his sense of humour was infectious. He had a wonderful way with words and a very quick mind which produced fast and uniquely intelligent witty responses.”

Martha, too, is pretty exceptional. Not content with climbing Kilimanjaro to raise funds for us, she also ran in the New York marathon – with a broken heel! Her doctor advised her to walk, but she had a long wait at the start after arriving very early on the bus from her hotel, and by the time she set off, all she wanted was to get it over with. “So I put the light-weight cast in my backpack, and ran with it on my back rather than on my foot!” She completed the race in 5 hours. Perhaps it wasn’t the most sensible idea – at the end of the day, she had to be carried to the restaurant to celebrate with the other runners – but it shows Martha’s determination. And that same determination, shown also by Ciaran and exemplified by Team GB at the Olympics and Paralympics, will be brought to mind by the torch, when it goes on display in the Heart Hospital. Martha’s own words sum this up perfectly:

“To me Ciaran was a beacon of light, whose personality and drive touched those he met. As such it is only fitting that I have gifted an Olympic torch in his memory: a symbol that embodies hope, determination, ethics, belief and celebration in the same way that he strived and excelled in life. I hope it will bring inspiration to all who view it.”