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Cormac’s mother in call for screening programme

Filed under: News/Events - Posted on Thursday, March 2nd, 2006 @ 9:50 am

THE mother of Tyrone GAA star Cormac McAnallen, who died suddenly of an undetected heart condition two years ago today, has said there remains much to be done to help prevent other deaths.

Brigid McAnallen was speaking ahead of the launch of a report by an Irish government taskforce on sudden cardiac death, also taking place today.

She said she hoped it would advocate widespread screening of young people, adding that Cormac’s brother Donal had lobbied the government with “a very good idea” for a screening programme.

“If they can’t screen all young people, at least make an effort to make people aware that screening is available,” she said.

Although sudden cardiac deaths among young athletes are often well publicised – Cormac had won almost every accolade in Gaelic football when he died aged 24 – non-athletes are also affected.

Mrs McAnallen said she was happy with the achievements so far of the Cormac Trust, which was set up to help make people aware of heart conditions affecting young people and improve access to defibrillators, which can help start the heart after an ‘arrhythmia’.

“We aimed to provide defibrillators in all sports clubs in Tyrone,” she said.

“You need to get them there within five minutes and given all the cuts in the standard of health service in Tyrone, the chances of getting [medical help] there within five minutes are extremely remote.”

She said the experience of others who had lost family members to sudden cardiac death made it clear that screening by electrocardiogram [ECG] and echocardiogram [an ultrasound of the heart] was also a priority.

“There are a group of people in Dublin who have lost a member of their family, a son in most cases,” Mrs McAnallen said.

“They all said the same thing – if only I’d known or suspected that he could have a heart condition or that there are certain symptoms.

“I feel an urge to help more people so that people don’t die of theseconditions.”

She said the medical profession sometimes failed to highlight the issue of sudden cardiac death.

“At times, the medical profession have behaved like they [the conditions] didn’t exist.

“There are no signs or notices up in doctors’ surgeries. People talk about heart conditions and how to prevent heart attacks in old people but there is nothing for young people.”

Meanwhile, a wide range of efforts are continuing to raise funds for the screening of families at ‘Heart House’, attached to the Mater Hospital in Dublin.

Larry McGuill of Dunleer golf club in Co Louth said he was moved to help raise money by the death of a 35-year-old club member 20 years ago.

“He died not long after winning six medals. He left seven kids and another on the way,” he said.

“But there are one to two people dying per week of sudden adult death syndrome [SADS or sudden cardiac death] and it’s not confined to sport, though sport is highlighted.

“There is no screening process where family can get screened and people have to go to London.”

As part of fundraising events this week, athlete David Carrie (39) is running seven marathons across Ireland in seven days.

He will arrive at the Mater Hospital in Dublin at 3.30pm today to be met by the Lord Mayor of Dublin.

Cormac’s anniversary Mass will be celebrated at St Patricks Church, Eglish at 7.30pm on Saturday.

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