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OAP warning Pensioner saved by cardiac surgery urges people not to avoid hospitals over COVID-19 fears


Stephen Tuohy, Consultant Cardiologist, University Hospital Limerick and Joseph O’Neill

Stephen Tuohy, Consultant Cardiologist, University Hospital Limerick and Joseph O’Neill

Stephen Tuohy, Consultant Cardiologist, University Hospital Limerick and Joseph O’Neill

A pensioner who had a life-saving mini defibrillator which can shock his heart into a normal beating rhythm - in what is believed to be the first procedure of its kind in a public hospital in Munster - has urged people not to avoid hospital appointments or planned surgeries over fears about COVID-19.

Joseph O’Neill, 74, from Moyasta, County Clare, received a subcutaneous ICD, cardioverter-defibrillator, at the Cath lab, University Hospital Limerick, last October.

Mr O’Neill suffered a mild heart attack in 2010 and it was recommended by doctors that he receive a different type of ICD device “the kind where the wires travel along the veins and up to the heart” which is traditionally used in heart attack patients.

Once it was fitted he soon felt “a new lease of life” - however his health was to suffer another blow when he was in juried in a road traffic collision.

“After the accident, I developed medical problems and I knew I had serious problems at that stage. I was able to do a bit of research myself and I spoke to my own doctor about it and I was referred in to UHL,” explained Mr O’Neill.

It was decided he required a new “subcutaneous” ICD technology, which meant “having to go back to the Mater Hospital in Dublin for surgery to have the older device taken out and to come back down to UHL again to have a new subcutaneous device put in”.

Mr O’Neill said people should not let the coronavirus pandemic prevent them from seeking medical help or going to hospital for a procedure: “I was listening to people on the radio or in the papers talking about how they were anxious about going into hospital because of the Covid-19, and the more I thought about it, the more I said to myself that people should not be afraid to get help.”

“I want to say to the men and women out there who are thinking that way that they absolutely need to go in for their operations. Without the help I got from UHL and the Mater, I would not be alive today.”

He explained he was “tested five or six times for the virus” in preparation for his surgery, “and I would say to people to have no fear in the world of Covid”.

Hospitals “know what they are doing and they are taking all the precautions”.

Hospital staff “know people are anxious about it and they do everything they can to make you relaxed and comfortable”.

“The medical teams, the cleaners, the caterers; I could not fault any one of them.”

The ICD is still “a relatively new technology and has particular advantages over transvenous devices in certain patients”, explained UHL consultant cardiologist, Dr Stephen Tuohy.

“Essentially an ICD is a small implantable battery-powered device that can deliver a shock to the heart to somebody who has a life-threatening heart rhythm such as ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia,” Dr Tuohy said.

“In this way, we can restore a normal heart rhythm as and when required and the device continuously monitors the patient to look out for those potentially dangerous heart rhythms.”

The traditionally used transvenous ICDs, which have been used for many years, are more invasive and involve electrical leads being placed through a vein and into the heart.

The subcutaneous ICD technology allows for a regular heart rhythm to be restored without the need for the leads to touch the heart itself.

This can reduce potential complications in the long term, as well as allowing a less invasive procedure for patients if the device system ever needs to be removed.

UHL’s cardiology department which includes a 16-bed acute cardiac care unit, a step down facility, and a day care unit, provides 24-hour care to patients across Limerick, Clare, North Tipperary, North Kerry and North Cork.

It provides services such as ECG, Echocardiogram, Coronary angiography, Coronary Angioplasty, stenting, cardiac device implantation and advanced structural interventions.

Online Editors