A Cork couple devastated by a severe stroke have urged the Cork public to have their blood pressure checked.
Research shows that in Ireland about 60% of people aged 45 or more have high blood pressure, which puts them at risk of stroke.
September is Irish Heart Month and to mark it the Irish Heart Foundation is encouraging people to have a blood pressure check.
It is estimated that 2,000 working-age people are now affected annually by the disease in Ireland.
Tony O’Connell in Mahon is a full-time carer to his wife Margaret who had a stroke in 2015. Tony gave up his full-time job at Cork City Council to care for his wife who lost her independence and was unable to walk after suffering a severe stroke.
After 16 weeks in Cork University Hospital and a further 14 in the National Rehab Centre in Dún Laoghaire Margaret was told she would have to be cared for in a nursing home. Tony didn’t want that so decided to stay at home and mind Margaret.
The O’Connells' lives were turned upside down and Tony is asking people to be aware of stroke and to know the precautions to take to avoid it.
Tony said he was lucky - he had savings that helped supplement the little money he received from the State’s carers payments. While he was waiting to switch from carers allowance to the benefit payment he received just €13.50 a week.
The pair’s application for a medical card was knocked back three times before they got one so Tony decided to pay for the equipment his wife needed to get better, himself.
“At the time it was anticipated that Margaret would be wheelchair dependent for the rest of her life,” he said.
She lacked mobility and was unable to cope with daily functions.
Their house needed adaptation and Margaret needed an electric bed. It was a huge financial strain and there were unnecessary pressures like red tape and paperwork that they had to contend with before receiving any help or funding.
“It was a worrying time. Unless you had savings, you were up the creek.
“I had no idea how complicated this would be it was all brand new. It was worrying," he said.
They’ve managed and have prevailed and Margaret is slowly progressing but it hasn’t been easy.
Margaret can’t walk unaided, she still has her speech and can talk - sometimes too much according to her husband - but she needs orthotics and a heel lift to help her balance.
Tony wants the State to invest more in helping stroke survivors who are under-65-years to improve. He said make time for a blood pressure check to ensure you are one of the eight out of 10 strokes that can be prevented.
- High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke: a blood pressure check is a quick, simple and non-invasive test that can be life-saving
- Heart-healthy diet: Cut down on salt – it can increase blood pressure levels and therefore increase your risk of heart disease and stroke
- Get more exercise: Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a day
- Stop Smoking: Smoking doubles your risk of a stroke, 40% of younger stroke sufferers are smokers
For further information and support, visit http://www.irishheart.ie