John has ‘a heart for running’

A LOCAL runner who suffered two strokes five years ago, but has since gone on to finish a marathon in under three hours, has said he owes his quality of life to the experts at SWAH, and has hit out at the current cuts to the hospital’s services.
There has been much concern about the suspension of emergency surgery at the SWAH in recent times, but it is important to remember it is not the only service under threat at the hospital.
Since 2016 a hammer has been hanging over the hospital’s state-of-the-art stroke unit, as a result into a northern-wide review of stroke services. While the unit was given a welcome reprieve earlier this year, in no small part thanks to the power of the people of Fermanagh and the community response to the threat, the Department of Health has stated it will be revisiting the review in the years ahead.
If that does happen, inspiring stories like John McDonnell will turn to tragedies. It is a story John, a member of Enniskillen Running Club, has now turned into a book.
In 2017, at the age of 48, John suffered a stroke at his home outside Brookeborough. Thanks to the quick actions of his wife and the ambulance service, he was quickly taken to SWAH for treatment.
While at the hospital, John suffered another, larger stroke. Fortunately, as he pointed out, he was being treated at one of the best stroke units in the UK.
“When the big one hit me, Prof Kelly was right there and they got the medicine, the thrombolysis, administered immediately,” he said. “I was pretty well recovered in a couple of hours, I was able to talk again.”
Despairing at the thought of those with serious illness and injuries now having to be taken to Derry or Craigavon as a result of the suspension of SWAH emergency surgery, John said he dreaded to think what would have happened if had to be treated elsewhere.
“Every minute, two million brain cells are lost in untreated stroke,” he said, noting even if he had survived his quality of life could have been greatly impacted.
“I’ve come back, and my book is all about how incredible the treatment I got was.”
John explained his strokes had been caused by an 11mm hole in his heart, which had been there since birth but he was unaware of. He was also full of praise for Dr Monica Monaghan, cardiologist at SWAH, he said had been “absolutely fantastic.”
“It would be an absolute crying shame to lose lives because some stupid money or budget issues, it doesn’t make any sense,” he said, of the current cuts to hospital services.
You can read more about John’s story in his book, A Heart for Running, which was released on Monday this week. It will be officially launched at Rebecca’s Cafe in the Buttermarket, Enniskillen from 6-7.30pm this Friday, December 9th.

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