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Simple steps give heart patients new lease of life



Date Published: {J}

IF YOU are the type of person whose eyes glaze over when statistics are mentioned, here’s one that should make you sit up and take notice. At least 80 per cent of heart disease and stroke could be avoided if people changed their lifestyles.

That’s the message that the heart and stroke charity, Croí is trying to spread for World Heart Day, which is being celebrated on Thursday next, September 29.

And Croí is putting its money where its mouth is, with a free programme, unique in Ireland, which is aimed at preventing heart disease in people who are diagnosed as high risk.

The Croí MyAction programme was launched over two years ago in collaboration with Imperial College London, with some support from the HSE.

Run from the Croí office in the city’s Liosbán estate, the programme, which helps people quit smoking, improve their diet, deal with stress and take up exercise, is led by a nurse specialist, a dietician, a physiotherapist and exercise specialists. Everything takes place under medical supervision.

And, explains nurse specialist Ann Marie Walsh, it works because they help people by taking “a step-by-step approach”.

Over 800 people from Galway county and city have taken part in the MyAction programme since it was set up in June 2009 and its success has surpassed all expectations.

For Michael Conneely, a 66-year-old carer from Bealadangan in Connemara, the course changed his life.

“I had heart problems in 2004 and two years after that I had emphysema. Two years ago I had cancer in my kidney and had one of them removed and last March I got a stroke.”

His cardiologist referred Michael to the MyAction programme, once he was sufficiently recovered, and the father of seven says it has transformed his life.

A heavy smoker for more than 50 years, he has now quit. He lost a stone weight. And he has taken up exercise – something he didn’t think he’d be able to do on the first day he entered the Croí headquarters on a walking stick.

“Going into the hall that first day was like going into Croke Park,” he recalls.

He was part of a group of about 15 people, he says, but the exercise was designed to suit each individual.

“I started and I kept it up and I’m still keeping it up. I walk for two miles every day, three some days.”

Michael has also started yoga as part of the My Action programme, something which is a source of bemusement to him.

“I never thought I’d be doing yoga!”

His diet also underwent a radical transformation, under the supervision of dietician Clare Kerins.

For breakfast he has simple toast and for dinner he eats a lot of vegetables and less meat than he did before. Also he has cut down on potatoes.

“I’d have two potatoes. I used to have five or six at one time.”

Butter, which was also a staple, has gone.


And while it might seem strange that he could undergo such radical change, Michael doesn’t miss his old diet.

“I’m used to it now. You don’t need treats.”

Giving up smoking was a major achievement.

“I tried giving up a few times but it didn’t work, but they gave me patches and a nicotine inhaler with the patches. I was under a bit of pressure, but they helped me along.”

Michael had two inhalers when he started the course. Now he has got rid of one and barely uses the other at all.

The course has changed his life and he says the back-up support from the team has been a huge help.

“When you are so sick, you think you will never get over it, but I’m over it now and have forgotten all about it.”

Patricia Kavanagh who lives in Clarinbridge felt she needed to start looking after her health following several close family bereavements.

Her doctor told her about Croí and recommended her for the MyAction course. Patricia wasn’t sure initially if she’d be a candidate because she didn’t suffer from diabetes or hadn’t had any heart-related illness. Her cholesterol at the time was a little over five. But because there was a family history of heart problems, Croí accepted her.

When she joined the programme, her blood pressure and cholesterol were monitored, something that continued throughout the 12 weeks. And she found the nutrition advice very helpful. But for her, the chief benefit came from the exercise programme.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Galway have lot to ponder in poor show



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013




GALWAY’S first serious examination of the 2013 season rather disturbingly ended with a rating well below the 40% pass mark at the idyllic, if rather Siberian, seaside setting of Enniscrone on Sunday last.

The defeat cost Galway a place in the FBD League Final against Leitrim and also put a fair dent on their confidence shield for the bigger tests that lie ahead in February.

There was no fluke element in this success by an understrength Sligo side and by the time Leitrim referee, Frank Flynn, sounded the final whistle, there wasn’t a perished soul in the crowd of about 500 who could question the justice of the outcome.

It is only pre-season and last Sunday’s blast of dry polar winds did remind everyone that this is far from summer football, but make no mistake about it, the match did lay down some very worrying markers for Galway following a couple of victories over below par third level college teams.

Galway did start the game quite positively, leading by four points at the end of a first quarter when they missed as much more, but when Sligo stepped up the tempo of the game in the 10 minutes before half-time, the maroon resistance crumbled with frightening rapidity.

Some of the statistics of the match make for grim perusal. Over the course of the hour, Galway only scored two points from play and they went through a 52 minute period of the match, without raising a white flag – admittedly a late rally did bring them close to a draw but that would have been very rough justice on Sligo.

Sligo were backable at 9/4 coming into this match, the odds being stretched with the ‘missing list’ on Kevin Walsh’s team sheet – Adrian Marren, Stephen Coen, Tony Taylor, Ross Donovan, David Kelly, David Maye, Johnny Davey and Eamon O’Hara, were all marked absent for a variety of reasons.

Walsh has his Sligo side well schooled in the high intensity, close quarters type of football, and the harder Galway tried to go through the short game channels, the more the home side bottled them up.

Galway badly needed to find some variety in their attacking strategy and maybe there is a lot to be said for the traditional Meath style of giving long, quick ball to a full forward line with a big target man on the edge of the square – given Paul Conroy’s prowess close to goal last season, maybe it is time to ‘settle’ on a few basics.

Defensively, Galway were reasonably solid with Gary Sice at centre back probably their best player – he was one of the few men in maroon to deliver decent long ball deep into the attacking zone – while Finian Hanley, Conor Costello and Gary O’Donnell also kept things tight.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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