Little did Barry O’Regan know that when he raised money for the Irish Heart Foundation in recent years that he would one day become a heart patient himself.
For the last three years, the 36-year-old and a dedicated team of tractor enthusiasts have organised the Mount Uniake Tractor Run in east Cork.
The event has taken place in aid of the Irish Heart Foundation and in memory of their friends, Larry Long and Finbarr Hurley, both of whom lost their lives to heart disease. To date, the Mount Uniake Tractor Run has raised a colossal €50,000 for the Irish Heart Foundation.
Last year, the farmer, Dairygold employee and member of Mogeely Vintage Club experienced heart failure and was hospitalised.
Leaking mitral valve
Barry was diagnosed with a leaking mitral valve when he was still in school. The mitral valve is a small flap in the heart that stops blood flowing the wrong way. Problems with it can impact how the blood flows around the body.
Barry readily admits that he did not understand the seriousness of his health problems was not great at looking after himself and led a very full life.
Over the past few years, the father-of-one started to notice that he was not feeling great. He began to get tired but put his symptoms down to working hard between helping at home on the farm, in the family pub and his full-time job with Dairygold.
Looking back, he realised that for more than years. He was feeling pain all over his body, and he should have paid more attention.
GP visit and hospitalisation
It all came to a head in September 2019 when Barry felt so breathless and unwell that he went to see his GP who told him he needed to get to hospital immediately.
He did not go there though, as his priority was to get his van parked up at home. As he waited for his father to pick him up, he collapsed, and his mother had to call an ambulance.
A lot of drama ensued, and he was fortunate to be treated as he had gone into heart failure. Barry was rushed straight to the emergency department in the Mercy University Hospital. He was then transferred to Cork University Hospital (CUH) where he underwent major heart surgery.
Barry was in the Cardiac Care Unit for some time, and fondly remembers how attentive and caring the staff were.
A 28-day stay in hospital
He pays great tribute to his friends and family, particularly his parents to who he said he was indebted for their support during his 28-day stay in hospital and afterwards.
Barry remembers Anne Riordan from the Irish Heart Foundation speaking at the first cheque presentation of the proceeds from the 2017 Mount Uniake Tractor Run.
She outlined the major risk factors for heart disease and stroke. She advised that the risk of heart disease and stroke can be reduced by 80% by watching our diet, taking regular exercise, not smoking, drinking in moderation, watching stress levels and keeping a check on our blood pressure and cholesterol.
Ms Riordan said: “We’re great to get the car or tractor serviced, we check the pressure on our tyres, change the oil – if we only looked after ourselves as well.”
Barry has thankfully made a full recovery and wants to raise awareness of heart disease and encourage people to look after themselves before it’s too late.
He is also grateful for the excellent care he received and to be able to raise more funds for the Irish Heart Foundation this year.
Every hour someone in Ireland suffers from a stroke. Every day, hundreds of Irish people are diagnosed with heart disease. The lives of these people are often cut tragically short; many are left disabled.
Almost 9,000 people die each year, making heart disease and stroke one of the nation’s biggest killers.
The foundation says its mission is to effect positive change in the lifestyles of Irish people, to achieve better outcomes for those affected by heart disease and stroke and to challenge when the health of our nation is put at risk.
To support Barry’s fundraiser, click here.