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Bid to raise £50k for Belfast man Peter McGarry struck down by rare stroke in Guatemala

By Ann W Schmidt

Published 22/10/2016

Peter McGarry with his girlfriend Elvira Mendez in Guatemala
Peter McGarry with his girlfriend Elvira Mendez in Guatemala
Peter McGarry

A Belfast family is raising money to get better treatment for a man who is battling for his life in Guatemala.

Peter McGarry (38), was in his Guatemala home last Friday when he suffered immense pain in his head and had a nosebleed.

He couldn't remember if he had collapsed or not, but he was dazed.

He told his girlfriend of two years, Elvira Mendez who then phoned for an ambulance and Peter was taken to hospital in Antigua.

After a CT scan, doctors diagnosed that Peter had a rare type of stroke called a subarachnoid haemorrhage.

Elvira called Peter's sisters Louise May (35), Joanne McGoran (42) and their parents Sean and Helen McGarry the next day to tell them the news.

Louise said that even after getting to hospital, Peter continued to have immense pain in his head and doctors couldn't work out what was causing it.

They decided on Monday he needed to go to Guatemala City to get an MRI scan, but they had to wait until Wednesday when he was in better condition to travel.

The MRI showed that he had an aneurysm which would require surgery soon.

"We were under the impression that he was being transferred to Guatemala City to a hospital there where he would get the test and if surgery was needed he would be in the right place," Louise said.

"But he is now back in Antigua in hospital there."

Louise set up a JustGiving page on Thursday to raise £50,000 to move Peter to a hospital in Guatemala City so he can get the help he needs in one place.

Until he can be moved, Elvira has been doing everything she can to help, like going to the pharmacy every day to buy medications for doctors to administer.

"She's definitely been a huge, huge support for him. I think if he didn't have her he probably wouldn't be alive really, if she hadn't been there in the first place. We're very grateful that she's there," Louise said.

Elvira has also been keeping Peter's family updated, but they were able to speak with him personally before he got his MRI.

"We were glad to get speaking to him and we all got speaking to him individually," Louise said. "He probably didn't sound as bad as we all expected, but (he had) very slurred speech and (was) very slow. From what his girlfriend's been telling us, there are times that he's not too bad and then there are times that he's very vague and confused.

"His short term memory seems to be affected. So when she isn't there, which is obviously some of the time because she's not able to stay in that hospital, he gets very distressed because he doesn't know that she knows.

"He can't remember that she's been there the day before."

Louise said that if Peter continues to be transferred between different hospitals, there is a risk of the aneurysm rupturing, which could be fatal.

"The hospital he's in now is very basic because they don't have the resources to do a lot of the tests that are required. Then he gets moved more.

"We're just so worried. We're obviously worried about him having surgery, but really we're worried that he isn't even going to make it to surgery."

The JustGiving page raised more than £11,000 yesterday. Louise said she and her family appreciate how much has already been given in such a short time.

Louise said: "We've been overwhelmed by the support we've got so far. We just can't believe how generous people have been.

"It's such a tribute to Peter and it has given us a real lift when we have felt so helpless."

"It will make a massive difference to his care. It means we are able to start talking to specialist neurologists over there to find out what options we do have."

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