A family in Co Wicklow suffered unbearable tragedy in the first days of the new year 2019 when the day after their father’s funeral his daughter, died suddenly aged just 47.
Siobhan Dunne from Rathnew Co Wicklow was a dedicated mother to three children Cormac 14, Kasey four and Callum seven, loving wife to David and adored sister and friend who died much too young due to a sudden heart event.
Recalling the events of those tragic days Siobhan’s sister Glenda said that the previous day the family had buried their father John Franey (Snr) who died from heart failure on the 27th of December at the age of 81. Then on the 01st of January a day after John’s funeral came the call that was to further shatter their world.
“It was the 01st of January and it was quarter past twelve in the afternoon, and I rang my dad’s house to see was anyone there, had anyone gone to the house, even though he was the last in the house. No one answered. I was quite upset because Daddy never answered that phone. So, I had just hung up and I was sitting at the kitchen table and my phone rang and it was Siobhán’s husband, David.”
‘Come quick, Glenda.’ He said, ‘Siobhán has collapsed.’ I said, ‘What do you mean, collapsed’ and he said, ‘Well, the neighbours are working on her. I immediately started to scream as I knew that wasn’t a good sign.
Glenda and her husband rushed to Siobhan’s home where they found neighbours preforming CPR and using a defibrillator in an effort to resuscitate her. Despite their best efforts and those by the ambulance crew however Siobhan sadly died leaving her family devastated.
“They tried everything, but it was too late…..forty-seven, three young children, the day after Dad’s funeral. We were just absolutely heartbroken,” Glenda said.
“We should have been starting the process to grieve Dad and now we were grieving both,” she added.
“She was always very caring, and kind and bubbly and she was very deep, Siobhán. She wore her heart on her sleeve and everyone’s worries were her worries, she was very sensitive.”
The family later learned that Siobhan died from Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD).
SCAD is an uncommon emergency condition in which a ‘tear’ happens within the layers of the wall of the artery. This leads to blood becoming trapped within the artery, forming a clot and causing a partial or complete blockage. This can lead to a possible heart attack, an abnormal heart rhythm or even sudden death, if not treated promptly.
Researchers are not fully sure what causes SCAD, but it is known that 80 per cent of sufferers are women and 30 per cent of those are nearing the end of a pregnancy or have recently given birth. Like Siobhan most people with SCAD are otherwise healthy and might not have any risk factors for heart disease. It tends to occur in people between the ages of 19 and 64.
Glenda recalled that Siobhan had complained of chest pain before their father’s funeral, but she put it down to grief at the loss of her dad.
“ We miss her so much in that sense because she held everything together for us."
Glenda described Siobhan as “the glue” that held the family together she was also a great talker who “loved talking all the time.”
“We miss her so much in that sense because she held everything together for us. She knew what to do in situations, in grief. We had experienced grief before in the family. “
The Franey family has endured an unimaginable level of grief and loss over the years. Their mother Kathleen died in 2018, Siobhan and Glenda’s sister Valerie and brother Malcom both died in 2004, and in January 2020 their brother Brian died from cancer.
Despite their grief the family has pulled together to remember Siobhan by raising more than €15,000 in her memory.
The funds raised have provided life saving defibrillators in Rathnew and Wicklow town, and part of the monies were donated to the Irish Heart Foundation a charity which Glenda said was incredibly supportive of the family.
“We all said Siobhán had such a big heart and her heart just died, really and truly. When that happened, that was the end. She was gone. Dad had died from heart failure, so the two of them together, the Irish Heart Foundation was very close to us. I always remember when Dad was diagnosed with heart failure, he was in St. Vincent’s Hospital in Elm Park and a nurse came from the Irish Heart Foundation and she went through so much. As a family, we met her. She told us Signs to look out for and when to bring him to hospital or let him be. They were always on-hand when we needed them.”
Glenda said she would encourage all women to seek medical help if they suspect there is something wrong with their heart.
“That women realise that, if they have chest pains that continue over a long period, don’t just assume that it’s something like a panic attack or something like anxiety or stress. Get it checked out and don’t be afraid to get it checked out.”
Finally, Glenda said that Siobhan’s sudden death had prompted a lot of people herself included to visit their doctors for a long overdue check-up.
“I do know, a lot of people, after Siobhán passed away, did go, and get checked out. Some people had never been to the doctor or hadn’t had bloods done in years. Siobhán has brought that about in our community anyway, how important it is to look after your health.”