Actress Pauline McLynn has told how losing both of her parents to stroke inspired her to help increase awareness about its warning signs. She said that it had also led to her embrace sea swimming and aqua-aerobics as she becomes more health conscious.
The star, iconic for her role as tea-obsessed housekeeper Mrs Doyle in Father Ted, lost her mum Sheila, 86, in October 2021,17 years after a stroke also claimed the life of her 69-year-old father, Padraig.
Pauline supports the Irish Heart Foundation’s ‘Act F.A.S.T. – Minutes Matter’ campaign to drive greater awareness of the warning signs of stroke.
“The F.A.S.T. message is simple, and I’d like to think if my name is on one (stroke) that there will be someone close by who will know what to do. It is just reminding people to think that way if they have any suspicions, it’s better to be safe than sorry, and T for time is the one to remember,” she said.
The star lost her mum Sheila, 86, in October 2022, 17 years after a stroke also claimed the life of her father, Padraig.
“Sadly, my mum, who had a number of other things wrong with her and was in Galway hospital (UHG), also had a massive stroke. A vessel burst in her brain and once it had happened that was it, she had a very gentle passing after that. She just slipped away, she wasn’t in much pain.”
Recalling the sudden death of her father in 2005, Pauline said, “He was at work in Mayo having his lunch one day and had a massive stroke. He ended up in Castlebar Hospital and 10 days later, he died. He had a blockage in his veins. His (brain) electrics went, but physically, he had a great rest and looked fabulous. He just had one of those devastating strokes from which there was no coming back. He would have been thrilled with that, he didn’t want to grow old and he didn’t like old people!”
She remembered her parents as “super, lively and mischievous”. “There’s an awful lot less devilment in the world now that they’re both gone, so I guess we will just have to take up the baton and run with it, myself and my brothers.”
But despite losing two parents to it, it doesn’t make me feel there’s no hope – the quicker someone can be treated, the better the prognosis.
“It’s amazing the amount of people who have had strokes – and a number of people I know survived them. The quicker someone can be treated, the better the prognosis. It’s not necessarily going to be older people who are having it so, it’s good to know what you can do to help if that happens, and I just thought that if I was with somebody, would I know what to do if they had a stroke?”
“Literally, when you have a stroke, you’re losing two million brain cells a minute and so the sooner you get help for the person or the sooner you’re given help if you’re having the stroke, the more there is to save of the person by the time the experts get their hands on you."
“It is a really positive thing to be saying to people: dial 112 or 999 and you will be giving the best chance possible to the person who is having a stroke,” she said.
“We were brought on holidays every year to the seaside, picnics at the weekend, and we were never discouraged from doing anything. I drifted into drama and acting, and they never once took me to one side; they were very open-minded.”
“I expect it might be written in the stars somewhere for me and it’s simply because my parents have gone that way that I want to highlight it so that people are aware,” she said.
Although she despises New Year resolutions, Pauline has promised herself a “full MOT” – and has joined a gym near her home in Dublin’s Phibsboro, where she enjoys aqua-aerobics several times a week.
“I am starting to look after myself a little more; I’m a bit fitter now.”
"One of the things I learned after becoming involved in the stroke campaign is that there is such hope; the quicker you deal with it, the better your chances of survival,”
Pauline said she knew she wanted to get involved with the Irish Heart Foundation to raise awareness for the early signs and symptoms of a stroke.
“You can have a stroke at any age. It’s not an age-discriminatory thing so it is essential that people know. It’s a really positive thing to be saying to people. Time is of the essence. It is a really empowering thing for people that can do more than you imagine by just acting quickly.”
“I think mam would be delighted in some way that there is attention being shone on this.”
Learn more about the F.A.S.T. campaign here.