Robert LaGamma and his wife, Anita, on their visit to Ireland, when Anita fell ill and availed of the excellent services offered by Croí. Image courtesy of Robert and Anita.

Croí finds a permanent place in the hearts of grateful American visitors

American tourists have always had high praise for Galway and Ireland but when Washington couple Anita and Robert LaGamma visited the county, it was Irish heart and stroke charity Croí that stood out for them the most.

In a letter to Croí, Robert LaGamma expressed the “profound appreciation” that he and his wife have for the organisation; “Let me summarise it by saying that the multi-faceted assistance provided by Croí proved to be literally a life-saver.”

After a day of exploring the beauty of Connemara in September, Anita LaGamma fell ill. The local doctor arranged for the couple to be rushed to Galway University Hospital (GUH) where she was diagnosed as having had a mild stroke.

Anita was instructed not to fly for six weeks, leaving the couple stranded in Galway and unable to return home for more than a month.

“When we approached the time in which the hospital did all that it could I then realised we faced a dilemma. As a practical matter, where in the world could we stay for six weeks that offered the best opportunity for recovery? We knew no one in Galway,” Robert recalled.

“When I asked hospital personnel for advice it was suggested that I visit the Social Service office. There I met the remarkable Gerry Monahan, who after hearing our story, made some inquiries and suggested what turned out to be an ideal solution.”

Mr Monahan suggested that the couple spend their first two weeks in an apartment in the nearby heart and stroke centre, Croí – advice which the couple followed.

“Monahan also helped us obtain a cell phone that was to be critical in communicating with our children and other concerned family members,” Robert added.

Croí turned out to be the ideal solution for the couple. It was a roof over their heads and a comfortable place to prepare meals.

The apartment’s proximity to the hospital also proved useful and “it provided precisely the kind of place required for Anita’s recovery. Upon moving to an apartment there, much of the anxiety that came with Anita’s illness was lifted.”

The couple had great praise for the staff at Croí – particularly nurses Ann-Marie Walsh and Patricia Ryan who regularly monitored Anita’s blood pressure and provided advice and guidance, including access to Croí programmes and contacts with appropriate staff.

Robert and Anita also have great respect and gratitude for Betsy Egan and Paul Early who gave the couple advice and helped them to navigate Galway.

“Croí provided precisely the assistance we needed including help with testing and appointments with specialists. For that and other support we are deeply indebted to Croí’s Director, Neil Johnson who on several occasions assisted to make sure that our needs were met,” Mr LaGamma explained.

“That assistance was critical in assuring us excellent care and led to a final MRI and specialist appointment that cleared Anita for her return home on 25 October.”

Mr LaGamma also said that his time at Croí convinced him that he and his wife had been blessed to have landed in Galway and to have “benefitted so many ways from that unique institution”.

“I am told Croí means heart in Irish. How appropriate! I am convinced that the existence of Croí holds the solution to meeting the health needs of countless Irish and at least one American.

“But in a larger sense, our experience with Croí demonstrated to us the great and generous heart of Galway and of the unmatched kindness of the people of Ireland.”

During their time in Galway, the LaGammas were visited by two of their daughters, Alisa and Florence, and Florence’s husband Victor, who came to Galway to help with their mother’s recovery.

Mr LaGamma said that his children also regard Galway as a very special city with “great character and a generous people”.

“In this coming season of Thanksgiving we’ll all raise a pint of Guinness to give special thanks to the people of Galway,” he said.

“Towards the end of our stay, our daughters sought to involve us in the many delights of Galway. They led us to many discoveries, among them the music of the Crane, the imaginative cuisine of Ard Bia and the wonderful Charlie Byrne’s bookshop.”

But to this Washington DC family, Galway was so much more than a holiday destination; it was the right place to be at such an anxious time.

“In my work, I travel a good deal and try to persuade my wife to come with me. Of all the places we have been, we regard ourselves most fortunate to have weathered our crisis in Galway and to have fallen in the hands of Croí and its highly skilled staff and visionary director.”

In his letter to Croí, Robert emphasised that the services of Croí during the couple’s time of “greatest need” were “critical to our obtaining world-class health care in Galway”.

“We came aware from our experience with a sense that Croí is superb, a highly professional institution effective in promoting both prevention and recovery from heart and stroke disease,” he wrote.

“For us, Croí will forever stand out as a model institution and one we feel should be emulated in our country and elsewhere around the world.”

Almost one month after returning home to Washington DC, Anita LaGamma still requires a good deal of rest but is clearly on “the road to recovery”.

Her husband has said that her doctors in Washington are very impressed with the care she was given in Galway.

“I would hope that the people of Galway appreciate and support the exceptional institution that is Croí. It has no equivalent in the US to my knowledge but we and others around the world should regard it as a model.”

For more information on Croí, visit

*Originally published in the Connacht Tribune

Written by Jessica Thompson