Awards prove that life can be fulfilling after a stroke




When Clara Le Blanc, 3, could not sing a nursery rhyme to her baby sister, her mother, Karen, had no doubt she had suffered a stroke.


It was Aug 19, 2012, and Clara had got into her mother’s bed in their home in Howth, Co Dublin. “At about 6am in the morning, I woke up and was giving the baby her bottle. Clare woke up and I noticed that her face had dropped. Then I realised that she couldn’t speak properly. I asked her to sing a nursery rhyme to the baby and she couldn’t.

“I asked her to lift her hands and I could see there was a weakness so I put her in the car and took her to Temple Street Children’s Hospital.”

Clara had suffered another stroke about eight weeks previously and that had caused the loss of her peripheral vision in her right eye. Following a series of tests, it was found that chicken pox had caused Clara’s stroke.

“When you have chicken pox it can cause narrowing of the vessels in the brain in some children. I did not know that and I am a medical scientist who has worked in Temple Street for years.”

Karen, originally from Ballincollig, Co Cork, said Clara knows she had a stroke. “She tells people she has a ‘sleepy hand and leg’ and is determined to wake them up.”

Clara was the youngest stroke hero to receive a Child of Courage award at yesterday’s annual Irish Heart Foundation Life After Stroke Awards in Dublin.

Brian and Mary Carmody from Tralee, Co Kerry, were presented with the Stroke Support Group Award for developing the Kerry Stroke Group in partnership with the HSE.

Brian, 61, who completed 50 marathons worldwide, suffered a stroke seven years ago.

He contracted a virus that destroyed a valve in his heart and suffered a major stroke during surgery to replace it and to have a pacemaker fitted. The stroke caused paralysis down Brian’s left side and left him blind in one eye.

“Thank God, I made a remarkable recovery, all due to my wife and my willpower,” he said.

Brian has regained about 90% power in his leg and about 50% in his hand. He spends two hours a night practising writing.

Doctors told Brian he could not expect to make any significant gains beyond 18 months after his stroke, but he feels he is still improving seven years on. “It is up to yourself. You must stay positive. I came out of Cork University Hospital in a wheelchair. It took two nurses to lift me into it. I started off walking for 30 seconds — now I am walking five miles a day.”

Also honoured were:

Grace Manning, 13, from Rathfarnham in Dublin. She recognised that her mum, Angela, was having a stroke when driving the car. Angela managed to pull the car over and quick-thinking Grace alerted a nearby garda.

* Esther Hourigan, 31, from Firies, Co Kerry, called 999 after realising that husband, Stephen, 31, was having a stroke. Stephen, a garda and father-of-three, returned to work six months later.

* Lynsey Cribbins, 22 from Finea, Co Cavan, was honoured for her bravery in coping with being trapped in her own body because of locked-in syndrome. Despite being restricted to facial movement only, she has shopped online for her family this Christmas.

* Alan Gleeson, 21, from Ballymore-Eustace, Co Kildare, was celebrated for his bravery in taking on many challenges since suffering a stroke 13 years ago when he was just 8 years old.

* Anthony Holten, 60, from Glanmire, Co Cork, was recognised for his willpower. The former marine engineer and competitive cyclist suffered a stroke in 1999.

* Jack Hersee, 8, from Arklow, Co Wicklow, received an award for relearning how to do basic things like walking and talking again after falling down the stairs and suffering a stroke.

* The Moakley family from Kilworth, Co Cork — Edmond 30, Lisa, 29, Evelyn, 26, and Patrick, 24 — were also honoured for caring for their mother, Betty, who suffered a stroke in Sept 2012 and needs round-the-clock care.

* Michael Joy, 49, from Limerick was recognised for the courage he has shown since collapsing with a stroke on a football pitch. He has almost made a complete recovery.

* Connie Fraser, 76, from Blackrock, Co Dublin, was honoured for meeting everyday challenges after suffering a stroke 21 years ago. She relearned how to walk and talk and began driving despite having the use of only one arm and limited leg movement.

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