The sporting hearts of the Whoriskey brothers

Aaron and Bobby Whoriskey pictured in competitive action for the Bann Boat Club. Both brothers have overcome erious heart scares in the last 18 months in order to return to fitness training.
Aaron and Bobby Whoriskey pictured in competitive action for the Bann Boat Club. Both brothers have overcome erious heart scares in the last 18 months in order to return to fitness training.
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A Derry weightlifter has qualified for the World Championships following his return to competitive action after being diagnosed with a life-threatening condition.

Aaron Whoriskey was diagnosed with a hole in his heart only one month after he secured Gold and Silver medals at the 2009 Commonwealth games. Following doctor’s orders the fitness instructor had to halt all weight training for a year. But last week Aaron qualified for the World Championships at what was his first competitive appearance since the diagnosis.

Remarkably Aaron’s heart defect was only discovered after his brother, David, a successful rower with City of Derry and now Bann Boat Rowing Clubs, was diagnosed with Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS).

Both brothers have since made full a recovery and returned to competive action in their chosen disciplines.

Aaron’s health issues were only identified after David contracted glandular fever.

While in hospital he was diagnosed with SDS, also known as Wolff Parkinson White syndrome.

The fever was, according to the boys’ father, Bobby, “a blessing in disguise.”

David, 23, explained: “I spent one night in hospital and was expecting to go home the next morning but the doctor walked in and said ‘the cardiologist will be into talk to you, you have a heart syndrome.’ I was shocked I always did a lot of sport. I had no symptoms and I was never really ill before.”

Aaron underwent keyhole surgery in March 2009 to ‘burn’ the extra electrical pathway in his heart, an operation he describes as “not too bad”.

“I’ve never really taken it on board properly. My parents were the ones who stopped me training, I would have continued on.” In fact David did continue and completed the Newry half marathon - after being diagnosed with SDS!

“I had trained hard for it,” he explained. David underwent surgery in the RVH and has since contested regattas in Belfast and Portadown. As a consequence of his diagnosis it was decided to test his brothers.

“Aaron had to be checked as he can’t see me with anything but he has to have it too,” laughed David.

“Conor, 27, the smoker and the drinker of the three of us, had the best heart of all and was given the all clear.”

Aaron had very different results and said: “It was just a shock, I couldn’t talk about it for weeks,” he said.

The Energie fitness instructor had to tell his then new employers, that he was unable to teach fitness classes.

“They couldn’t have been better but it was a lot of worry.”

Even though he still has a hole in his heart, Aaron marked a successful return to the sport with a silver medal at a qualifier for the weightlifting World Championships in Limerick last weekend. It was the last qualifier of the season.

Aaron has been warned he must “listen” to his body and have regular check ups. At some point he will have to undergo surgery.

“I thought it couldn’t be any worse when my brother was ill but I was wrong.”Aaron competes in the Weightlifting World Championships in six weeks in Limerick. “Though I want to win it I’m happy just to be there, to have qualified and represent my country.”