Para-cyclist Richael Timothy will be part of the Irish team going to Paris this summer for the Paralympics.

Living with HHT - Richael Timothy

“One day I woke up with no power on my right side” – paracyclist on brain injury that changed course of her life

Richael shares her story living with HHT. A rare genetic vascular disorder, Hereditary Haemorrhagic Telangiectasia – HHT which runs in Timothy’s family. It causes malformations of blood vessels and enlargement of veins and arteries.

She was raised on the Roscommon-Galway border and was obsessed with Gaelic and soccer. She played county football for Roscommon up to senior level and soccer for Ireland – under-15 and under-17 – alongside current Irish captain Katie McCabe.

“Sport was the main reason for doing everything” she said.

But in 2016, at the age of 21, she suffered an acquired brain injury.

Timothy had undergone radio-surgery to treat a blood vessel. The surgery went well, but six months later she started to experience intense headaches. Coupled with that, her foot started to hit off steps and she experienced seizures that at the time were believed to be epilepsy.


“It looked like I had a stroke. I went into the hospital and they found there was swelling on my brain. It was on my lower left side, which affects the right side of my body.”

Timothy thought her condition would improve with treatment.

“I thought the medication would reduce the swelling and I would be back to normal, but when you get a brain injury it doesn’t heal like the rest of your body. You can’t regenerate the brain cells, if they are damaged, they are damaged forever,” she said.

It left her with just 30% power in her left leg, and playing football and soccer became impossible.

Initially, she found it difficult not to think of the activities she could no longer do. “Because I was so sporty and everything revolved around sports and I couldn’t do it, I felt as if I had nothing,” she said.



She found it hard not to imagine what her future would have been like had she not sustained the brain injury, but over time, her perspective began to shift.

I was told by one doctor, “you need to forget about who you were and take this as your new baseline” and that was probably the best thing I heard”, she said. Timothy’s GP suggested she try para-cycling. She started cycling in 2017.

“The first day I did 50 metres and fell off”, she said. “The next day I went 100 metres.”

Because her ability to walk had been drastically affected, the bike gave her a greater range of mobility.

“It allowed me to exercise, which I wanted to do and needed to do”, she said.

She made her Irish debut in 2017 and won her first international medal at the Manchester Para-Cycling International in December 2019, winning silver in the scratch race.

She won Bronze at the 2020 World Track Championships, in the non-Paralympic scratch race event, and represented Ireland at the Tokyo Paralympic Games.

Everything going well, she will also be part of the team going to Paris this summer for the Paralympics and the Road World Cup in Belgium.


Aside from athletics, Timothy and her wife, physiotherapist, Jennifer Downey, have a seven month-old baby, Lucy, to care for.

“She is at the fun stage now but at first it was a shock to the system”. Timothy said of their bundle of joy.

“She is a perfect baby and sleeps from 6pm to 6am the next morning. I am getting better sleep now as i think she might wake early so I go to bed earlier”.

Timothy is an official Nestle Cereals Ireland ambassador, and was speaking as it launched its “Bring the Cheer” campaign.

She said she is pleased the campaign is using athletes with both visible and invisible disabilities.

“It’s good they have a variety of athletes.” she said.

“There are a few occasions where if you are using the parking (spot) people will say, “what are you doing?”, but you get used to it. I don’t get annoyed. I just explain that I have a brain injury.”

Talking about her life today, she said: “I could have really good days, or really bad days where I can’t do anything or get out of bed. But I think this is what qualifies me as a para-athlete.”

Source: Irish Independent 7/5/24.

Thank you Richael for speaking up about your HHT.

HHT Ireland would like to wish Richael the very best in both her career and personal life,  as it all seems to be heating up now!

By working together we can find effective solutions to improve HHT patients in their daily lives.
Your life story is valuable in making a difference, the more we talk about it, the more we can change things.



You can send us your story to