LAURA MCINERNEY from Co Limerick, who suffered a brain haemorrhage just weeks after starting college, was one of 10 stroke survivors whose courage was celebrated yesterday.
Laura, 21, was studying to become a nurse when she became ill just over a year ago. Despite such a devastating blow to someone on the cusp of her career, she has remained motivated, positive and driven about her rehabilitation.
Laura received the Irish Heart Foundation’s Young Person’s Courage Award from All-Ireland champions Alan Brogan and Bryan Cullen, at a ceremony in Dublin, hosted by presenter Marty Whelan.
With Laura was her mother Miriam McInerney, who said: “It has been a very tough year but we have come through. Laura is an inspiration to us all because she always stays positive.”
Laura, who hopes to become a midwife, studies early childhood care education at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick city.
Laura said: “I would urge anyone to always look at the positive side, work hard, be determined and have a great mother by your side.”
Soap legend Jim Bartley, 66, who plays Bela Doyle on Fair City, and suffered a stroke earlier this year, also attended the event.
He presented an Adult Courage Award to Rose Gallagher from Co Donegal, who lives with the daily fear of choking after being left with no gag reflex following her stroke.
As recently as three weeks ago, the retired nurse woke to find paramedics working on her after choking on a scone because her swallowing muscles are paralysed.
The Children’s Courage Award went to 18-month-old Leo Garry from Co Meath, who suffered a stroke as a complication of chicken pox. His mother, Niamh Garry, said the baby was an inspiration to his parents during the ordeal.
“Leo is the most amazing child I have ever witnessed. He spent almost five weeks in Temple Street (Dublin) and his laughter, spirit and pure joy were an inspiration to us,” she said.
Niamh hopes Leo’s bravery in fighting the country’s third biggest killer will teach other parents that stroke can happen to young children too and to watch out for any signs.
The Stroke Support Group Award went to Richard Napier from Mallow, Co Cork, who suffered a stroke 11 years ago.
Richard, 38, established the North Cork Support Group because he wants to help other people recover from the illness and get on with their lives.
Richard’s parents, Kay and Billy, played a leading role in helping him on the road to recovery. The former electrician said he hated being dependant on people: “I was only able to put on my socks this year after the stroke.”
Other winners were 33-year-old Rachael Ahern, who was 28 when she suffered a stroke while visiting her now husband’s parents in Co Limerick. Rachael’s spirits were lifted when Aidan proposed to her while she was in hospital.
Irish Heart Foundation chief executive Michael O’Shea, said it was hoped that the awards, supported by Boehringer Ingelheim, would help keep the need for better stroke services high on the health agenda. “Because there is life after stroke and we have the heroes to prove it,” he said.
* Act FAST Award: Kevin Martin, 30, from Kildare who suffered a stroke just four days before getting married in August 2011. Recognising the symptoms, he told his father to call 999 and received timely clot-busting treatment and made it to his wedding on August 20.
* Carer’s Award: Tipperary woman Mai Browne who has been caring for her husband, Dominick, full-time after he suffered a severe stroke in 2003. Up every day at 5.30am, she is on the go until her husband is in bed at 8pm and only gets one hour of help every day him get out of bed in the morning.
* Family Award: The Hannan family from Limerick who worked as a team to get their father, Pat, back to health after he suffered a stroke when he was just 35.
* Boehringer Ingelheim Stroke Champion Award: Prof Des O’Neill, a pioneer in promoting better services for people with strokes for two decades.
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