Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 15 November 2019

Abu Dhabi singer performs hospital concert to thank staff who saved her life

Opera performer Louise Ryan found the perfect way to sing the praises of staff at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi on Wednesday

When opera singer Louise Ryan suffered a stroke last year her life, not just her career, hung in the balance.

The British performer was left in intensive care for three weeks due to a subarachnoid hemorrhage, a rare form of stroke caused by a burst artery on the brain.

It is a condition which proves fatal in about half of all cases and can lead to permanent disability, such as paralysis or a loss of vision or speech.

Performing again was the furthest thing from her mind after the fateful February incident, yet Ms Ryan staged a remarkable recovery thanks to the tireless efforts of the medical team at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

Eager to thank those who saved her life, Ms Ryan decided to sing the praises of the dedicated staff in the most fitting way possible.

She returned to the hospital in much brighter spirits on Wednesday, to give an emotional performance to patients and staff in a show of gratitude.

Eighteen months on from her ordeal, and speaking ahead of World Stroke Day on October 29, she is thankful to be back in full voice.

“I was at the gym with my husband and I suddenly felt this terrible pain from the top of my neck going up all the way to the front of my head,” said Ms Ryan, recalling the moment she fell ill.

“I didn’t know what it was. I was very frightened. I could tell this was something serious. I felt nauseous and had a weird sensation all over the left side of my body.

“When something like this happens, you don't really think about singing. It was more of the shock of the moment. I had an engagement at the end of April at Emirates Palace so it was a case of, I am going to be better for that. I had faith in my care and there was no question about it.”

She swiftly sought treatment at a nearby hospital. By the time she arrived, she was having trouble walking and seeing properly. After being evaluated, she was transferred to Cleveland Clinic.

Ms Ryan underwent successful surgery to stop the bleeding to her brain.

Within three months of being released from hospital, she was back performing as a mezzo soprano with the National Symphony Orchestra at a concert in Abu Dhabi.

She now teaches children’s singing classes across the UAE capital.

Staff and patients enjoyed the lunchtime concert from opera singer Louise Ryan on Wednesday. Pawan Singh / The National
Staff and patients enjoyed the lunchtime concert from opera singer Louise Ryan on Wednesday. Pawan Singh / The National

“Louise was certainly one of the lucky ones, since around 15 percent of people who suffer a burst aneurysm pass away before reaching a hospital,” said Dr Khalil Zahra, a neurointerventional surgeon at Cleveland Clinic's Neurological Institute.

“Although her aneurysm had burst, she arrived at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi awake and alert with no neurological deficit.

“After we stabilized her in our ICU, we were able to treat her using a minimally invasive, endovascular procedure before it could lead to further complications.”

As well as the sterling support of medics, Ms Ryan believes her healthy lifestyle played a key role in her full recovery and urged others to "be positive and look after yourself".

“I eat healthy, I exercise and take care of myself and I do believe that by doing that, I am here today, because the chances of me not surviving or being mentally or physically disabled are so high,” she said.

I saw the piano in the lobby, and I thought it would be a beautiful way to say thank you

Louise Ryan

Ms Ryan sang in the gallery of Cleveland Clinic for a lunchtime performance.

Open to the public, the theme of her performance was love and gratitude in recognition of the life-saving care she received at the hospital.

“I felt I couldn’t do enough for the staff that did so much to care for me during my illness," said Ms Ryan.

"Every single caregiver went above and beyond. Since my stroke, I have a much deeper appreciation of life and of everything I’m able to do.

"I saw the piano in the lobby, and I thought it would be a beautiful way to say thank you. If you’re caring for people, the best thing you can see is them fully recovered and going back to doing something they love.”

Updated: October 16, 2019 07:32 PM

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