Liam Rossiter was diagnosed with heart failure four years ago. The support offered by the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) Heart Failure support group, supported by the HSE, in the years since have provided him with “vital reassurance. It has been just great to go and speak to people in the same boat as me. Heart failure sounds scary but it is not a case that your heart is failing – it is just failing to function properly. By joining the groups you get reassurance.”
The groups includes people living with heart failure, their families and carers. Before COVID-19 these groups met in person. Responding to a sense of isolation felt by people living with heart failure during Covid restrictions, the IHF groups, with the support of the HSE, moved online. They meet online each month for education by healthcare professionals, peer to peer support and a virtual cuppa.
Maeve Carmody HSE Self-management Support Coordinator regularly joins the groups: “I have seen first-hand how peer support groups help people to live well with their condition. It’s really powerful and the education sessions provided by healthcare professionals are really informative.”
A butcher from Dungarvan, Co Waterford Liam began to feel unwell in 2017 and his condition worsened throughout the year. “I put it down to my dad being in hospital as I was up and down to Dublin. I wasn’t getting as much exercise as before and I thought maybe I was just losing my fitness,” he explained.
“But as the year went on, I started to develop a chest infection – my breathing was getting laboured and my energy levels were dropping. On December 11 I was turning blue but did not feel cold, so I took myself down to the hospital. The doctors knew immediately something was going on. Instead of my heart pumping blood around my body, the fluid was starting to build up around the heart and flowing into my lungs.”
Liam spent eight days in Coronary Care going into Christmas week, noting that “as you can imagine, being a butcher, I was extremely frustrated about that. I was brought to a CATH lab at Waterford University Hospital and during a procedure (draining of fluid) there, my heart stopped. Fortunately they got me going again with a shot of adrenaline.”
Engage with supports
Now an avid cyclist, Liam is encouraging people in a similar situation to engage with new supports throughout the country. “All through Covid I have continued to cycle every second night. I have gone from not being able to walk up a short hill a few years ago to going out on the bike now for three and a half hours – doing between 60 and 100kms,” said Liam. “It is leisurely and I do not push too hard, but I do enjoy pushing myself a little bit at times if I am feeling good. I feel I am one of the lucky ones. At times I get tired, but then everyone gets tired when they work for 10 to 12 hours a day!”
The overall service allows people to access regular information sessions on topics such as medication, lifestyle changes, self-management and diet. Other supports include the fluid heart tracker app which was developed by HSE Heart failure Clinical nurse specialist Norma Caples.
Liam recommends that people get involved in the support groups. “I’m the youngest person there! It is just great to go and speak to somebody. I can give something back as well, for people that might be a bit worried about how they are feeling.
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