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Twentieth birthday for life-saving stent medicine



Date Published: 12-Nov-2009

GIVEN that the concept of inserting stents into heart patients in Ireland is 20 years old recently, it would probably be remiss of me not to add my tuppence worth to the celebrations – as someone who has been kept going by three of them inserted almost seven years ago.

 Stents are those tiny wire cages – they’re usually made of titanium and look like a miniaturised and very sophisticated metal tube – which are inserted into diseased arteries which have narrowed and become blocked. The idea is to restore the blood flow to the heart . . . lack of blood flow and resultant starvation of oxygen to the heart muscle is the cause of heart attack.

Thousands of people in Galway are involved in the manufacture of stents – the mega companies working in the stents area and stent research in the city would be Medtronic and Boston Scientific – and it is to one of the products of the latter that I owe the fact that I am still bashing away on the laptop . . . though they warned me that working all hours on the same damn keyboard was one of the causes of my heart attack(s) the guts of seven years ago.

I’m afraid there was no drama like you see on Casualty or Holby City of someone keeling over and being rushed to hospital. In my case it boiled down to not feeling very well, being a little sweaty, a bit like having the Swine Flu without the sore throat and runny nose.

A few days in bed, blood pressure normal, and thought I was not ready to go back to work, I was going back anyway. There had been a suggestion that I might go into that excellent Pain Clinic they have in University Hospital Galway, but I had pooh-poohed the idea.

“I don’t have a bloody pain,” being the logical, if slightly impatient, reply.

However, my better half had persisted and, on the way to work, I turned into the hospital. Here I have to say that the professionalism was extraordinary, a lot of it thanks to the remarkable contribution which Croí (The West of Ireland Cardiology Foundation) has made to equipment, staffing, services and rehabilitation of heart patients.

In 10 minutes I had a diagnosis of heart attack. Not just that, two heart attacks . . . one about two days previously, and the other during the previous night.

Later someone explained it rather unkindly (and somewhat non-politically correctly!) as ‘a woman’s heart attack’ – you have no pain, few symptoms, you get up and dance at a son’s or daughter’s wedding, and then sit down and die in the chair. I was a walking timebomb waiting to go off.

Up to a few years previous to that, the only real choice of treatment would have been a bypass operation in the Mater Hospital in Dublin. But the marvels of ‘stenting’ had by then really taken hold, having started in Ireland in 1989. I was a suitable case for ‘stenting’ and within two hours had the stents inserted at the narrowed points in the coronary arteries, and had my bum back in a bed in coronary care, perhaps the luckiest man in Galway.

The stents were inserted through a cut in the femoral artery in my groin, guided to the correct points by x-ray and a tiny tube (catheter) on which was a balloon which was inflated at the correct point and caused the stent to pop open and prop the arteries open.

In my case there is some debate as to whether the Taxus Stent made by Boston Scientific was the first of its type inserted in Ireland, or possibly in Europe. You see those clever people in Boston Scientific had moved on to a new generation of stent which was impregnated with a drug which made its way into the bloodstream over a period of time.

The beauty of this ‘self-eluting drug’ system is that it delivers a precise amount of drug at the precise point where it is needed to stop the stent becoming ‘gummed-up’ by fatty deposits or plaque (a process known as re-stenosis). It also cuts down on the need for taking other drugs to reduce the possibility of re-stenosis.

In a matter of weeks I fell into the hands of yet another service which has been aided by Croí – in this case the marvellous Cardiac Rehab, which is aimed at getting cardiac patients really back on their feet again, making them immensely fitter, ensuring a better diet, making them capable of walking past choccy bikkies, creamy cakes, burgers and chips, and whatever you’re having yourself sir!

Equally importantly, it is aimed at getting inside the heads of heart attack victims and convincing them that life is not over, that they don’t have to take to the armchair, hotwater bottle and dressing-gown as a way of living, though they do have to develop serious ‘cop on’ about changes in lifestyle.

Interesting that quite recently a new service was launched aimed at stopping people getting to the point where they end up in coronary care – Croí are taking people with significant risk factors that would include issues like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and intervening in their lives long before they have a possible heart attack, or are a candidate for one.

They call this MyAction and the idea is that you take responsibility for your own life and action on it like not smoking, tackling fitness, controlling blood pressure, regulating diabetes, regulating diet, cutting down salt intake and all the other factors which just about everyone knows about . . . but not too many tackle in any sort of concentrated way.

Word on the grapevine is that the MyAction intervention has already made a very significant impact on the lives and long-term health of a number of people.

So, I’m not quite sure if it’s my 67th birthday I’m celebrating at the moment . . . or the 20th of the remarkable stent technology which has transformed medicine and the lives of patients. And let’s not forget, that stent technology is also used in other branches of medicine like cancer and other treatments.

Take a bow Medtronic and Boston.

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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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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