Clinical FeaturesNeurology

National Stroke Conference calls for more support for Patient Services

A major National Conference on Stroke, hosted by the South Tipperary Stroke Communication Group, took place at the Cashel Palace Hotel, Cashel, Co. Tipperary, on Monday May 20th. The Conference, which attracted around 200 people, heard from professionals and stroke survivors and included demonstrations on developments in the area of innovations for persons with spinal cord injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis and other neurological conditions. At the outset, Cathaoirleach of the Municipal District, Cllr. Declan Burgess, welcomed all the delegates and the speakers to the ‘City of the Kings’. Delegates had travelled from as far away as Coleraine in Northern Ireland, from Dublin, Mayo, Carlow and from several other parts of the country.

Martin Quinn opens the National Conference on Stroke at the Cashel Palace Hotel:

As one of the organisers and a stroke survivor, I had the great pleasure of opening the Conference. Speaking at the Conference I said that it was an opportunity for experts, practitioners, researchers, and advocates from across the nation, to discuss the pressing health challenge of stroke. “Stroke, with its profound impact on individuals, families, and communities, demands our collective attention and concerted efforts. This conference serves as a platform for sharing knowledge, fostering collaboration, and advancing innovative solutions in stroke prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation. At this Conference we will engage in enlightening discussions, explore research driven initiatives, and exchange invaluable insights that will shape the future landscape of stroke care in our country. Today is an opportunity to discuss awareness, access to quality care, the needs of patients and carers, and how we can make meaningful strides towards reducing the burden of stroke on our society” were my opening remarks.

One of the keynote speakers was Professor Joe Harbison, Associate Professor and Head of Discipline of Medical Gerontology in Trinity College Dublin & Stroke Physician in St James’s Hospital in Dublin and Clinical Lead of the Irish National Audit of Stroke. Professor Harbison gave a very insightful presentation on data from hospitals around the country in relation to stroke, and he highlighted some of the key messages from the Irish National Audit of Stroke. The Professor also gave a presentation on Atrial Fibrillation and he took questions from the floor on several different aspects of stroke.

Chris Macey, Director of Advocacy and Patient Support at the Irish Heart Foundation, was another speaker at the Conference and he highlighted the current funding challenges facing the Irish Heart Foundation. “The Irish Heart Foundation is running a national support service for the biggest patient group in the country. Out of a total cost of ¤1.24 million a year to operate the service, it is receiving just ¤130,000 a year in statutory funding. This represents funding averaging less than ¤19 a head to deliver a pathway of professional support to people currently in the service, with often complex support needs. Any patients here today who have benefited from these services, know what the impact of losing them would be to individual lives, and on a wider scale across the country. The Irish Heart Foundation has been making up the shortfall by running down its reserves, and we are extremely concerned that we cannot guarantee the continuation of all of our services beyond the end of 2024. This is very worrying and must be addressed by the Government as a matter of urgency” said Chris.

Ronan Langan, Clinical Lead of the DCU Exoskeleton Programme, delivered a hugely interesting presentation, which included a demonstration of the Exoskeleton. The Exoskeleton programme is physiotherapist led service allowing persons with reduced mobility due to paralysis, access to the ekso bionics exoskeleton, Ekso GT to allow them to complete sessions of supported walking facilitated by a trained handler. The programme is designed to deliver an array of benefits that regular walking in an exoskeleton provides for persons with spinal cord injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis and other neurological conditions.

Other speakers at the Conference included young stroke survivors Heidi Kingston and Darren Creaven. Young mother Heidi, gave an emotional testimony of suffering a stroke in December 2021. “I was an active and adventurous 32 year-old. I convinced myself that I was having a headache, a hormonal headache or maybe a side-effect of medication I took for the headache. Along with the headache I had numbness and tingling from my right side, from my neck all the way to my foot, and I had darkened peripheral vision. I was visiting family in New Jersey with my husband from our home in Galway, and only went to hospital following a phone call with my GP. It was there that he and I learned I had had a stroke. I was in complete shock” said Heidi. Actor Darren Creaven from Galway explained that he suffered a stroke almost 7 years ago when he was visiting family in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. “I suffered a bleed in my brain which caused me to lose all movement on my left side. I was taken to Tipperary University Hospital and later transferred to Cork University Hospital before going to Galway University Hospital and finally to the National Rehabilitation Hospital for rehab. Though I still have some deficits I have made a great recovery and am bac acting once again” said Darren.

Tea/Coffee and some treats were served by the wonderful staff at the Cashel Palace Hotel with one attendee remarking that they were “treated like Royalty”. The Conference was supported financially by TASK Community Care and Home Instead Ireland and financial and technical support was provided by the Tipperary Volunteer Centre. In excess of 20 stands were in attendance with a wide range of information available.

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