The Irish Heart Foundation’s 2018 Life Savers

By June Shannon Heart News   |   17th Dec 2018

Not all heroes wear capes – as we approach the end of the year, we wanted to celebrate just some of the people who helped us save lives in 2018.

The latest data from the Central Statistics Office tells us that more than 9,000 lives were lost from heart disease and stroke in 2016.

We can never lose sight of the fact that behind these numbers are real people who will be missed by their families and loved ones this Christmas.

It is also real people who support our work at the Irish Heart Foundation to help prevent the tragic loss of life to heart disease and stroke.

This year we wanted to celebrate some of these people because without them we simply couldn’t do what we do.

Michelle Herbert


Two years ago, Limerick teacher Michelle Herbert (pictured above on the left) suffered a cardiac arrest while playing camogie. She survived thanks to Sarah Jane Joy (pictured above on the right), a player on the opposing team who delivered lifesaving CPR and used an AED (Automated External Defibrillator).

Michelle and Sarah Jane were reunited in October this year at a special occasion to mark the two-year anniversary of this life-changing event where students at Hazelwood College, the Limerick secondary school where Michelle teaches, spent the day learning how to perform CPR.

Nearly 600 people in the school – students and staff – have now been trained in CPR thanks to Michelle’s work.

The day took place as part of the school’s participation in the Irish Heart Foundation’s CPR 4 Schools programme, supported by Bank of Ireland.

As a result of Hazelwood College’s work and commitment to training students in CPR, the school received a special recognition award at the event from the Irish Heart Foundation.

On Friday, 11 May 2018 we held our Happy Hearts Appeal which saw hundreds of volunteers take to the streets to raise funds for CPR training. To everyone who supported our 2018 Happy Hearts Appeal we would like to say thank you for helping us raise almost €200,000 which will go towards CPR training.

Michael Dermody

On February 14, 2017 Michael Dermody from Carlow had a stroke at just 51 years of age. Just three and a half weeks later he was back at work, thanks to a relatively new procedure called a thrombectomy.

Following his stroke Michael was rushed from Kilkenny Hospital to Dublin where he underwent a thrombectomy in Beaumont Hospital under the care of Dr John Thornton. Immediately after the procedure he was transferred back to Kilkenny where he spent two weeks in hospital.

Although the thrombectomy was successful and restored the strength in Michael’s affected limbs, he struggled with the cognitive side effects of the stroke.

While Michael received excellent care for his physical needs in hospital on discharge, he said he was “in a bad place” cognitively and felt he was handed back to his wife “a broken man.”

“Every day we got up and fought the stroke …you have to fight the stroke. You have to get in charge of it instead of it being in charge of you. If it is in charge of you, you are going to be getting more down and miserable,” Michael said.

Michael said he would encourage all fellow stroke survivors to seek help for the cognitive side effects of the condition and to get support from family, friends or stroke survivor support groups.

Michael spoke at the Irish Heart Foundations’ Stroke Survivors Conference which took place in Croke Park in April this year. We are incredibly grateful to him for raising awareness of thrombectomy and speaking about his experience.

Ruth Carroll Kenneally

In 2017 at the age of just 33,  Ruth Carroll Kenneally (pictured centre above) discovered she had a brain tumour. She was also nine months pregnant. Upon giving birth Ruth suffered a haemorrhagic stroke. She spent three months in the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dublin and while now home and living with her husband and healthy son Bobby, she is keen to help raise awareness for young stroke survivors.

Ruth is an active member of Irish Heart Foundation’s new Life After Stroke forum for young stroke survivors. She represents the one in four people under the age 65 in Ireland who have a stroke and is a wonderful advocate and supporter of the Irish Heart Foundation.

A former Cork Rose in the Rose of Tralee contest, Ruth appeared on the Late Late Show on RTE this year to share her experience and raise awareness of stroke in the young.

In April we launched the results of a new survey which found that just one in three stroke survivors under 65 returned to work within a year of their stroke and many did not have access to vital recovery services such as physiotherapy and counselling.

The vast majority of young stroke survivors, 95 per cent reported suffering from anxiety due to their stroke, 75 per cent felt depressed, 77 per cent angry and 72 per cent felt isolated.

Les Carroll

Les Carroll has atrial fibrillation and supported our campaign this November, ‘Prevent a Stroke: Feel the Pulse’.

Les from Templeogue, Dublin, is a Coordinator for the Irish Heart Foundation’s Stroke Survivors Support Groups in Tallaght and Crumlin, he also has atrial fibrillation.

With atrial fibrillation (sometimes called A Fib) your heart beats in a disorganised and irregular way which can lead to a range of symptoms and potential complications, including stroke, permanent heart damage and heart failure.

If you have atrial fibrillation and are not treated, you are five times more likely to have a stroke. Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of irregular heartbeat, with one in four people over the age of 50 at risk of developing it.

Les said he wanted to reassure anyone who has been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation that it has not affected his life in any way and he continues to work with the Irish Heart Foundation’s Stroke Survivors Support Groups.

Without people like Les and Koriena Ivers (who runs the Irish Heart Foundation’s Mullingar/ Longford Stroke Support Groups) it would not be possible to run our patient support groups. We currently run seven different kinds of support groups including stroke, young stroke, heart failure and Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS). These groups hold events throughout the year and are a true lifeline for many affected by heart disease and stroke.

The Leinster and Munster Rugby Teams

We are incredibly grateful to our supporters the Bank of Ireland who swopped its logo for that of the Irish Heart Foundation on the Leinster rugby team jerseys for its PRO14 semi-final against Munster at the RDS on Saturday 19 May and on the Munster team’s jerseys for the European Rugby Champions Cup game against Toulon on 31st March 2018.

The heart-warming logo swap aimed to raise awareness and funds for the Irish Heart Foundation’s CPR 4 Schools programme which equips secondary school teachers and students with the skills to deliver lifesaving CPR. The Irish Heart Foundation, supported by Bank of Ireland, hopes to train more than 300,000 second level students in this lifesaving skill.


No review of 2018 would be complete without mentioning Ruby from Irish Therapy Dogs.
In the summer we met and fell in love with Ruby, a beautiful nine-year-old golden retriever and Irish therapy dog, who visits stroke patients every Tuesday in St James’s Hospital in Dublin.
Ruby is everyone’s favourite colleague on the stroke rehabilitation ward in St James’s Hospital. She visits the unit every Tuesday with her owner Irene and spends an hour with patients and staff. You can read more about Ruby’s work here.

Wishing you and all those you hold dear a very happy and peaceful Christmas and a heart healthy New Year.

Thank you.

Become a heart hero in 2019

If you would like to get more involved with the Irish Heart Foundation in 2019 please get in touch with us for volunteering and or fundraising opportunities

Learn More


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