‘I was the last person you’d think would have a stroke’

A Co Tyrone father found found his life turned upside when he suffered a sudden bleed on the brain, or haemorrhagic stroke, in the run up to Christmas in 2019.
Bosco McShane with his wife Lynette and their seven childrenBosco McShane with his wife Lynette and their seven children
Bosco McShane with his wife Lynette and their seven children

Bosco McShane, a 44-year-old dad-of-seven from Coalisland, said: “I was probably the last person you would have expected to have a stroke.

"I was always on the go, a dad of six and busy with my Youth Ministry work. I don’t drink or smoke, and thought I was fighting fit. I had even run in the London Marathon in April and the Dublin Marathon in October just a couple of weeks beforehand.”

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Understandably, Bosco’s stroke has had a massive effect on him and his family.

Bosco McShane had a bleed on the brain in 2019Bosco McShane had a bleed on the brain in 2019
Bosco McShane had a bleed on the brain in 2019

“It impacted the whole family. The kids felt it when I had to stay in hospital for a month after the stroke and it was tough for my wife Lynette worrying about me and having to take care of all the wee ones on her own.

“At Christmas especially, it’s the little things that are affected that can annoy you the most. For me the Christmas lights blinking on the tree triggers something – I can’t even sit in the room with them. Background noise is also more difficult. When you have all the children in playing with their toys and they’re making noise, it can be very tough for my head. I don’t want to be a ‘bah humbug’ and take down the lights or take away the toys, but sometimes I just have to avoid it or go and have a lie down which is hard.

"It affects the whole family that way – they’re watching you and trying to keep the noise down if I need to have a sleep during the day, which is tough.”

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Bosco said during the Christmas season, going out and about shopping can be more difficult too.

"When I’m paying and having to count out my money, it takes a lot more concentration. You feel conscious that you’re taking a long time and holding up the queue. Those small things can be tough, which people don’t always realise, because on the outside you look okay.”

This Christmas, local health charity Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke (NICHS) want to raise public awareness about the long-lasting effects experienced by many people who have suffered a heart attack or stroke or have a respiratory condition.

The charity is launching their Christmas ‘Little Things’ campaign to highlight many of the little things that people affected by chest, heart and stroke illnesses might be unable to do and the ways in which the charity can help. Many people affected by such conditions are left with debilitating psychological symptoms and often physical disabilities, leaving them unable to do many of the things we take for granted in our lives like hugging loved ones, buttoning clothes, or getting out and about.

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Around 17% of the population in Northern Ireland are living with chest, heart and stroke conditions.

Bosco explains how the charity has supported him, “One of the Care Co-ordinators from Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke contacted me.

"At that stage we were entering lockdown during the pandemic. Only for their support, I was lost. When you come home from hospital, you’re left on your own. The support from the charity meant I was getting Zoom meetings and support phone calls and being able to speak to other people who had the same experience. They have been through it too and come out the other end. Having those chats were worth their weight in gold.”

“I couldn’t recommend the support I received from NI Chest Heart & Stroke highly enough – anything I needed, they were there. They kept in touch and supported you, and thanks to them I’m keeping positive.

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“We even welcomed another baby to the family, Macartan, a year after my stroke. The house is full of football, gymnastics, dancing, singing and all sorts! With 7 children aged between two and 12, Christmas will be hectic, but it’s those little things and moments with family that will make it special.”

Ursula Ferguson, director of Care Services at NICHS, said: “NI Chest Heart & Stroke has been supporting people in Northern Ireland for over 75 years. Last year we supported around 17,000 people through our support and physical rehab programmes for people living with chest, heart and stroke conditions, as well as through our prevention programmes which work with workplaces, schools and community settings. We also campaign for better care and awareness of these conditions as well as fund research to advance treatments and prevention work.”

“There are however over 335,000 people living with a chest, heart or stroke condition here so there is still plenty to be done. As a local charity, almost 90% of all our work is funded exclusively by public donations and these funds are essential in enabling us to continue to provide life-changing services for people like Bosco and Linda and their families. Without the public’s generous support, we could not help people across Northern Ireland enjoy more of the little things they love, this Christmas and beyond.”

Jackie Trainor, director of Income Generation at the charity addEd: We really appreciate any support people can give us. From a £1 donation, which may seem so small, to thousands of pounds from a fundraising event, every pound is important and really helps us to make a difference.”

To find out more about supporting the charity’s ‘Little Things’ campaign this Christmas, visit www.nichs.org.uk/lit

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