Sept 2019 Extra.ie
In 2012, he was in the biggest race in the Asia Tour of Qinghai. Morgan had rejoined the others after an untimely puncture on a very fast stretch. ‘Just as I regained contact after a good wheel change, there was a massive pile up in the bunch. Fifty riders went down at 70km/hr. I managed to avoid it and was almost stopped when an out of control rider ploughed into me. I was almost stopped and he was travelling at race speed with his head down, oblivious to the crash ahead.
He hit me like a train and I felt my whole body break. For his own troubles he broke both collar bones and ribs.’
At the time, Morgan had no idea what further damage his accident would have on his life.
After the other cyclist collided with him, he stopped breathing. His right lung was punctured and his left had collapsed. The Athlone man recalled: ‘I remember little bits, like feeling calm and then seeing my team mates broken bike being picked up in five pieces. I felt no fear, just aware that I couldn’t take a breath. I had suffered a severe bang to the head also so perhaps I was dazed.
I only found out afterwards that the Chinese had multiple ambulances on hand including a unit which could respond to bomb incidents. I guess something like a SWAT team ambulance. If anyone has seen a multiple pile up at that speed in a bike race it is pretty chaotic. Bikes and bodies, broken bones and blood. These guys were trained to assess the site and look not for the guy screaming in pain but the guy that was motionless. I don’t remember it but they spotted me pretty quickly and got me back. The deafness did not start straight away or perhaps I didn’t notice it as I was in intensive care for a long time and then various hospitals. I was dealing with a lot of other injuries including internal.’
Morgan ended up on TV later that summer as a pundit for cycling at the Olympics Games in London. He said it was fun at the time but he was noticing he was struggling to hear. It was his cousin’s fiancee Sinead, an audiologist, who noticed something was up. Morgan said: ‘She hooked me up with a hearing aid which helped on the TV but there was an incident where [RTE sports presenter] Darragh Mahoney asked me what the likely outcome of the race would be, and I told him the weather was looking quite good for the race and should stay dry. I knew by the look on his face I had not answered the question asked.
‘After this we started the investigation and to deal with my hearing loss through hearing aids. Then one day without warning I went from a mild hearing loss to sudden deafness overnight. I literally woke up profoundly deaf. I’m not a panicky person, I knew it was serious but possibly just an ear infection of which I never had. I thought, “What else could it be?” So into the car with my wife and to my GP Mike Brody. Mike took one look in my ears and said this is no ear infection and is very serious. He packed me off to see Prof. John Lang in University Hospital Galway. John pretty much told me despite treatment with steroid injections to the inner ear and other treatments that I was unlikely to hear naturally ever again. It was Sudden Sensory Loss.’
Losing his hearing had a huge impact on family life. Morgan lost his hearing at the same time his wife Maria was pregnant with their son Keelan, their daughter Farah just two years old. He said: ‘Being deaf was very difficult. The small things like trusting myself to babysit alone or not being able to understand what little Farah wanted for breakfast… I cried a lot in private. I was locked away in my own quiet world whilst trying to “man up” to it on the outside.’
After his meeting in University Hospital Galway, Morgan was then referred to Dr Sandy Cummings in Dublin’s Beacon Hospital, where he was given very powerful hearing aids to get him communicating and keep the cochlea stimulated in the hospital. He praised Sandy, who was heavily involved in the Cochlear implant programmes in her native South Africa. She worked alongside Dr. Eanna Falvey Sports Surgery Clinic, who was working with Morgan’s brother Keith in the medical team at the IRFU and Prof. Dan Healy at Beaumont Hospital, which led him to Prof. Laura Viani and Dr. Peter Walsh in the Beaumont Cochlea Implant department.
The sports pundit said: ‘Both Laura and Peter and the entire team at the Cochlear Implant Centre are wonderful people. Caring, compassionate and firmly to the point. Laura and Peter were adamant that an early intervention with a cochlear implant would give me the best chance. The brain will adapt, if there is no sound it will gradually forget sound and use the “hard drive” space for something else. So despite some silly concerns from me about losing the tiny bit of hearing I had left or miraculously regaining my hearing someday, I went for it.’
Prof. Viana is a surgeon at Beaumont Hospital and her work enables people in Ireland with profound hearing loss and deafness to hear. She founded the National Hearing Implant and Research Centre at Beaumont Hospital and recently received the international Cpl World-Class Talent award. Since the implant from Prof. Viana, Morgan’s life has changed completely. He has regained his confidence and is more driven to get back to a high level of communication. He said: ‘After the surgery there is a period where the brain is allowed to settle and ensure no rejection occurs. The switch in was about 4 weeks after.
‘Many are familiar with the YouTube videos of young children hearing for the first time. The reality is most kids are implanted as they were born deaf so any sound is stimulating and causes the reaction and the smiles. The reality for an adult who has had hearing all of their lives is that the switch on is a series of beeps, whistles, hissing and vague speech recognition. But you are prepared for this by the Cochlear Implant team. Then the training starts. The rehab, the relearning speech and sounds. Flash cards with the alphabet, online audio tools, incredible after care at the Beaumont. Speech therapy, occupational therapy, tuning, practice practice practice. I learned how to hear again with my baby son learning how to talk who was also doing his flash cards ,and big sister teaching us. Sitting at the table with mammy training supervising .’
Morgan now runs Ireland’s only professional cycling team EvoPro racing. He said about the business: ‘My role is completely communicative across multiple platforms and multiple languages — communicating via two-way radios, telephone, meetings and debriefings.’
Anne Heraty, CEO of Cpl and Cormac Loughlin, Director at Cpl presenting
Professor Laura Viani with the inaugural Cpl World-Class Talent Award
for her pioneering work in the field of cochlear implants
through the National Hearing Implant and Research Centre.