CHAMPION Mayo blind golfer Eddie Maguire says he can’t wait to get back on the golf course after flying to Spain for a hip replacement operation.
The 79-year-old’s incredible life CV reads like something out of a novel after playing Gaelic football for four different counties, written a series of best-selling education books and penned Golden Disc-winning songs.
“Now I can add that I used the EU Cross Border Directive to get a new hip in Spain,” laughs Eddie, who represented his native Mayo as well as Meath, Carlow and New York on the football field.
Following a terrible accident in 1979 while working as a teacher, Eddie lost almost all his vision. He was hit in the face by a steel door caught by a gust of wind.
After a number of years suffering in a deep depression, the Black Sod native turned to golf as a new interest and now represents his country all over the world.
When playing golf, he relies on a guide to take him through the golf course. And he has gotten very good at it which is no surprise for the man behind the ‘Less Stress, More Success’ book series which have helped a generation of young people navigate the Leaving Cert.
It is this positive thinking and love for life which also made him an award-winning song-writer, penning hits for stars such as Margo O’Donnell, Mike Denver and Philomena Begley (including Begley’s hit ‘Green Fields ‘Round Ardboe’).
So there was no way he was going to give up his passion for golf when his hip started playing up.
“I’m kind of annoyed that more Irish people don’t know enough about the EU Cross Border Directive,” says Eddie, who lives just outside Navan and whose written works were penned under his Irish name Éamonn.
“I had been finding it increasingly difficult playing golf, and just getting around, due to increasing pain in my hip and I was referred for a hip replacement operation. But I don’t have time to wait and I wanted it sorted quickly so I could be back on the golf course.
“I couldn’t even get an appointment to see anyone in Ireland – public or private.
“I called the agency Healthcare Abroad and within a few weeks I was in this incredible private hospital in the marvellous Spanish city of Denia and I was getting a new hip with an incredible surgeon Dr Jordy and incredible surgical and nursing team.
“I was met at Dublin airport before I left. I was collected at Alicante airport when I arrived and I was booked into a super 4-star hotel in Denia before and after my operation.
“The Healthcare Abroad team was remarkable throughout. I really struggle to find the words to describe my care throughout. I was provided with physio for an entire week – 10 sessions of physio – after my operation. The physio team were incredible including Sergio and Maria. What lovely people they are.
“My family really couldn’t believe it and, at times, neither could I.”
Under the EU Cross Border Directive, EU citizens have the legal right to travel to any other EU country for healthcare, with their own country picking up some or most of the costs.
“In my case, all my health costs – including the physio sessions – will be reimbursed by the HSE,” says Eddie.
“It’s an incredible scheme. I had to pay for my flights and hotel and that’s fair enough. But the level of care I received was just astonishing and I just would like more people to know about it. More people need to know about it.”
Eddie is looking forward to representing his country again later this year, representing Ireland with pride.
Taking the silver medal at the Spanish Open last May was a career highlight, he says. He is looking for to the British Open later this year too.
“Next time I compete in Spain, I will compete with my new Spanish hip,” he laughs, “maybe we might strike gold.”
A Healthcare Abroad spokesperson said: "Eddie is a national treasure and it was our pleasure to look after him in Spain. We will be following his career very closely in the years ahead."