The Paris Eternal have been reinventing themselves this season as an S-Tier team trying to expunge the memories of their previous life as a middle-of-the-pack mediocre team. They added a lot of fresh talent who have quickly gone about making names for themselves in the big leagues; but since the beginning of the season there has been one new player missing in action: Eoghan “Smex” O’Neill.
While the community just assumed that Smex’s absence was due to Visa issues, he took to Twitter on March 17 to reveal that he had actually been dealing with a heart condition that required surgery. To complicate matters further, he announced on March 28 that while recovering from two cardiac surgeries, he had also tested positive for COVID-19. Shortly after his announcement, The Game Haus was able to speak with him regarding his health, road to recovery and his team.
You have been MIA for a while and everyone assumed it was due to Visa problems but we now know it was actually due to cardiac issues. Were you aware of any underlying conditions before being signed? Or was this really just out of the blue?
- I hadn’t really been informed by my family of any previous heart problems. My immediate family, in all of their examinations haven’t had an issue or anything picked up, neither had I. So these past few months have hit me very quickly as someone who has been in pretty much perfect health my whole life.
When did you first notice there was an issue? What was it like trying to juggle that with presumably having to move to the States and be a starter for the season?
- I started to get some issues when I moved out to Korea for bootcamp and was extremely excited to be there. I was enjoying myself and improving with the team when I started to get bad shortness of breath and fatigue. Everything I did felt like I had brain fog and my body was sluggish. I came back to the U.K. and going through the NHS system is tedious and slow but it’s great. They cared for me through every step of the way. The urgency of my condition was only really identified the night before I was supposed to fly out to the States and meet the team. It really was just in the nick of time.
Do you think this could have possibly been affecting your previous performances (Contenders, OWWC, etc…) without you knowing?
- I’m unsure about this because my health has been deteriorating for a while unbeknownst to me. I was definitely getting ‘lazy’ as time went on over the past year, but I’m not one for excuses and doubt it. I definitely could have just played better in those tournaments.
You mentioned in your tweet that you actually had to have a valve replaced. What has recovery from that been like for you? And how has support been from the team and the community?
- The recovery has gone fairly smoothly apart from the fact that my heart went into a ventricular standstill, so only half of my heart’s circuit board was working after the first surgery. So now I’ve actually had a pacemaker put in as well to help my heart beat for the rest of its life span. I don’t have an issue with it and am looking forward to getting back to full strength. Already I can feel that my heart feels stronger and is getting stronger everyday. In regards to the team and the community backing me during all this, I can’t say it’s anything less than sublime. All are making sure that I’m on a swift recovery and not rushing me back into the team. I was told health comes first and am so glad to call Paris Eternal my team.
SoOn mentioned in one of his vlogs that you were scheduled to finally come to the States a couple of weeks ago. Was that plan derailed because of COVID-19 or just because of the time needed to recover?
- That was the night before I received a letter telling me I had an urgent appointment. It came on very sudden but COVID-19 didn’t interfere with my transfer at all. All of the pushing back on coming to the US was on the advice of my doctors. I’ve been told that after surgery it takes 2-3 months to get back to normal activities, such as work and driving. So I’m looking at that timeline even though things are always changing right now with the current climate.
As far as we know, you are the first player to test positive for COVID-19 in OWL but you’ve said your symptoms are mild for now. Can you tell us how you first found out, what precautions you are taking, and how you’re feeling overall?
- I’m feeling very content at the moment. I was moved into isolation in my hospital because I struck a 38.5C (101.3F) temperature post surgery. They swabbed the back of my throat and my nostrils and came back 24 hours later with a positive result. My fever went down and hasn’t returned for the past four days which I’m glad about. I am only having a very itchy, irritated nose that makes me sneeze at the moment. Now that I’m looking to be sent home today or tomorrow, I’ve been told to use separate cutlery, bathroom and to stay isolated in my room for 2 weeks since my positive test. So I intend to relax and stay put.
You’ve seemed to be keeping pretty PMA despite all of these challenges. How do you stay positive during times like these? Any advice you could give to others facing similar situations?
- I’m a firm believer in that a positive outlook equals a positive result at the end of it. It’s better for you as an individual and it helps those around you, who care for you, to process it a little bit easier in these tough times. It can definitely be hard to pull a smile in a similar situation. But making light of the situation and reaffirming their support back to those around you will make you more confident in your ability to recover and see the positives of the situation. For me, now I know there is potential for me to get to a ripe age with normal health with me only sacrificing the next few months ahead to achieve that. To me that sounds like an absolute bargain and I look forward to doing all the things I enjoy and probably more so now.
Everyone has been talking about their “quarantine routines” lately. What has been your go-to routine? Is it just a lot of Overwatch or do you have other hobbies outside of gaming that you’ve turned to?
- Haven’t had a chance to get back to my quarantine hole at the moment but I think I’ll take it easy for now. I’m being told to stay away from anything that might cause me stress and ranked can work me up. I think I’ll stick to TV shows and movies for now, with some language learning on the side. I’ve been putting it off for a while now but might as well start again with all this time I have.
Your teammates and coaches mentioned before that you have still been practicing with the team from the UK. Will that be put on hold for now while you take it easy?
- My lovely team have given me some time to rest and get back to full strength before I hop back into scrims and internals. I will most likely sit in and watch some scrims from time to time so I don’t fall too far behind though.
When do you think we will finally see you with the rest of the team?
- I can’t give a definite answer right now, especially with everything going on. I’d hope within two months I’m capable of playing with the team again and to be in good health. But we’ll see as we go on.
At the beginning of the season the Paris Eternal were placed quite low in the Power Rankings but your team has been proving a lot of those people wrong. What has it been like for you on the sidelines watching your team be so dominant? Is there any bit of FOMO since you can’t be here with them?
- I watch every game of my team and they make me so proud even though I’m a continent away. I get to see all the grinding, coaching and hard work going on behind the scenes and I knew it would pay off. Our players are strong and so are our coaching staff, I knew that from the beginning. And no I’m not the jealous type. I helped where I could. I’m glad they’re getting the wins down without me over there.
Lastly, you are probably one of the lesser known players picked up for Paris this season, so what is something that fans should know about you? And why should people be rooting for the Eternal this year?
- I think I’m yet to open up properly to the community and show my full personality. I want to try to interact more and even stream again to get my personality out there. I’m probably just your bog standard Brit but what more could you ask for? As for the team, the only reasonable answer is that we have such a great mix of players. We have crazy players, handsome players, funny players and some cuties for sure. There’s a home for everyone at Paris Eternal. #FiatLux
Featured Image Courtesy of Paris Eternal.
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