The 47-year-old father-of-four from Midleton, Co Cork, suffered a massive stroke in January that reduced his vision, caused loss of movement in his right arm and leg, temporary memory loss and an inability to speak or understand language.
However, showing characteristic determination, he learned to speak and write again during his rehabilitation programme at Cork University Hospital (CUH). Yesterday, he was honoured with an Adult Bravery award at the Irish Heart Foundation’s (IHF) Sixth Annual ‘Life After Stroke’ Awards ceremony in Dublin.
Phil’s partner Debbie Harwood recalled the moment he reached his verbal therapy target on St Valentine’s Day.
“We were sitting around in the coffee dock in CUH, as we did every evening with our pen and paper to communicate, and Phil just said, ‘I love you’. We both lost a few tears and my heart just melted. Then ,we burst out laughing,” Debbie said.
Philip was one of 11 award winners, ranging in age from five to 82; the youngest was Lily Rose Cooney, recipient of the Child Courage Award. Lily Rose, from Clondalkin, Co Dublin, suffered a stroke as a baby which left her with severe brain damage. Her mum Lorraine says she inspires all who meet her.
Corkman Tony O’Connell received the Carers Award for his devotion to his wife Margaret, who suffered a debilitating stroke in March. The 56-year-old gave up his job to care for his wife.
The award for stroke champion went to Jillian Ennis O’Boyle, 37, from Co Meath. The happiest day of her life in April 2011 was when she walked unaided out the doors of the National Rehabilitation Hospital. She described it as “like winning the Lotto”. Jillian has survived five strokes, yet, has taken part in two 10k mini-marathons.
IHF chief executive Barry Dempsey said the awards provided a unique opportunity to share “incredible stories of unsung stroke heroes living in every corner of Ireland”.