Waterford butcher Liam Rossiter was diagnosed with heart failure
A Dungarvan, Waterford butcher who was diagnosed with heart failure has told how the Irish Heart Foundation helped him get his life back from a condition which has a lower survival rate than many cancers.
Liam Rossiter, 54, who is one of an estimated 1,800 people living with heart failure in Waterford, fell ill in 2017 and put his symptoms down to a lack of exercise and travelling long distances to visit his hospitalised father.
But when his breathing deteriorated and he began to turn blue, he needed hospital care himself and had to have fluid drained from his heart.
“I was brought to a cath lab and during that procedure (draining of fluid) it stopped, although with a shot of adrenaline they got me going again,” said the avid Waterford cyclist.
“Ultimately, it turned out I had developed a virus sometime in 2017, a bit like a flu and it got to my heart and damaged the left ventricle, which is the pumping side of the heart.”
Heart failure or heart inefficiency occurs when the heart is not working as well as it should and is not pumping blood around the body efficiently.
Liam has encouraged people in a similar situation to engage with new nationwide supports being set up by the Irish Heart Foundation.
He said that an Irish Heart Foundation support group, which he still attends four years on, offers him vital reassurance and advice after the “scary diagnosis”.
The charity has responded to a sense of isolation felt by people living with heart failure during Covid restrictions by enhancing support it provides with online groups and a podcast presented by retired RTÉ presenter Michael Lyster, who has experienced heart failure.
“Patients with heart failure and other cardiac conditions have real fears and a sense of isolation during the current climate of escalating Covid cases,” said Heart Failure Programme manager Lucinda McNerney.
“The supports, which include our new podcast series, Nurse Support Line, new heart failure web page, Heart Support Network, online meetings, daily exercise on Facebook and peer to peer support, will help patients and their families to keep well at home both physically and mentally.
“With almost 300 new cases in Waterford every year, the Irish Heart Foundation’s new support service will help thousands of people to live normal, full and active lives with their condition.”
Liam never smoked or drank to excess, but in the summer of 2017 began to feel unwell and his condition worsened.
“I put it down to my dad being in hospital, and I was up and down to Dublin. I wasn't getting as much exercise and I thought I was just losing my fitness,” he said.
“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. Instead of my heart pumping blood around my body, the fluid was starting to build up around the heart and flowing into my lungs.
“I spent eight days in coronary care going into Christmas week and three days before Christmas. I was released from hospital and then straight back into work and I've been working ever since.”
The Irish Heart Foundation support service allows people to access regular information sessions on topics such as medication, lifestyle changes, self-management and diet. They will be provided by healthcare professionals who work in the area of heart failure including Norma Caples, who is the national nurse lead for the Heart Failure Programme in Ireland.
“All through Covid I continue to cycle every second night within my local area. 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.
He recommended that people get involved in the support groups being run by the Irish Heart Foundation.
Heart failure imposes a considerable cost on Ireland, estimated to be €660million, which includes €158 million to the HSE and the costs of premature deaths, which is approximately €502 million.
You can sign up to receive the supports at www.irishheart.ie or contact Heart Failure Programme manager Lucinda McNerney on 01-6685001 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.