Athlone stroke survivor Carrie Minagh pictured with Roscommon Sinn Féin TD Claire Kerrane.

Local stroke survivor calls for more funding for Irish Heart Foundation

An Athlone stroke survivor is advocating for greater funding for the Irish Heart Foundation charity.

Carrie Minagh said Government funding for the charity, which runs support groups for patients who have had heart problems or strokes and campaigns on public health issues, needs to significantly increase.

The Irish Heart Foundation recently launched a campaign to ensure €1.2million in crucial annual funding is made available. It currently receives just 8.6% of this to fund patient support services nationwide, which it says is inadequate to help the current volume of patients.

In Westmeath alone an estimated 11,000 people are affected by a cardiovascular condition. Every seven minutes in Ireland a heart or stroke patient is discharged from hospital and returns home to what is often a bleak and uncertain future.

Speaking about her own experience, Ms Minagh said: “On the 28th of May, 2014 I had a bleed on my brain. I spent about 21 weeks in hospital. I thought I was getting better but I was wrong. My speech and mobility were gone and I had to start learning to walk, talk, read and write all over again. I spent about eight months learning my words and putting them into sentences.”

Ms Minagh was placed in Dun Laoghaire Rehabilitation Hospital for nine months and said that she began to settle in and loved the programme.

“This was the first time I heard of the Irish Heart Foundation. I was so focused on my rehabilitation to get better and my studies, that I only began attending the Irish Heart Foundation at the end of 2017. When I went, I felt a little out of place as I thought I was going to be the youngest person there. However, I was wrong and I met people much younger than me. I began to settle in and attended weekly meetings. I made great progress and I began writing articles about my experiences for the Irish Heart Foundation.”

Ms Minagh explained that when she studied for a degree in community work, she gained work experience with the Irish Heart Foundation which enabled her to further understand the work that the foundation does to ensure people are informed about the facts of heart health and the risks regarding strokes and heart attacks. “Working with the Irish Heart Foundation is a really important and worthwhile role. I can relate to the issues that most members of the foundation face on a daily basis and I help to encourage and support them on their journey.”

The Irish Heart Foundation has developed practical, social and emotional support services that begin almost at the hospital gates and continue for as long as needed. Around a third of all stroke survivors returning home from hospital are referred to these services, which also supports thousands of heart patients annually.

The charity said: “Patients describe our services as their lifeline. They reduce the need for admission to hospitals and nursing homes. A heart disease diagnosis or stroke often leads to post traumatic stress disorder but the counselling we provide is the only psychological support available to many patients. Our services are endorsed by the HSE but only a fraction of our work is State-funded. Unless this changes, we cannot guarantee continued delivery of our services.”

Ms Minagh credits her mother's quick actions and recognition for saving her life, when, aged just 33, she suffered a bleed on the brain which left her unable to speak and walk.

After long spells in hospital, rehab and lots of therapies, Carrie eventually made a full recovery and recently celebrated a huge milestone by graduating with a degree in community development in Maynooth.

She is asking people to be aware of the signs of a stroke and act fast if they spot any of the signs. It could be the face falling – can they smile? Then there's slurred or abnormal speech or fallen arms, a good test of this is whether someone can raise them or not. If someone shows any of these signs you should call 112 or 999 immediately.