New support group will reach out to stroke victims

Eamonn Wynne

Eamonn Wynne

Stroke is a chronic condition, an illness that affects survivors, carers and all family members. Between 160 and 200 new victims are treated every year at South Tipp General Hospital. Fifty of these cases are TIAs (Transient Ischaemic Attacks), or mini strokes, which are warning signs. Now a support group that will help all stroke victims in this area is being launched.

The Clonmel Stroke Support Group is the brainchild of Gemma Dunn and Sandra Hickey, two staff nurses at the hospital. When she transferred to the hospital’s Coronary Care Unit (CCU) Gemma, a critical care nurse, noticed the high incidence of stroke victims coming in for treatment, a trend that inspired her to study for a post-grad in Rehabilitation and Habilitation, with the focus on stroke, as well as setting up the support group.

The group, which is voluntary, aims to offer support to and education to those affected. Gemma and Sandra, who’s also a counsellor, have worked with the Irish Heart Foundation during this set-up phase and they’re collaborating with other similar support organisations around the country.

The support group will be formally launched at 6pm on Friday, September 2nd in Our Lady’s Hospital in Cashel. Initially it will occupy a temporary room at Our Lady’s until accommodation is provided at the new community centre that’s currently under construction at St. Oliver’s in Clonmel. This centre will be completed towards the end of the year and a room is being kindly made available by Parish Priest Fr. Michael Hegarty.

For stroke victims rehabilitation is a lifelong process. Working with professionals such as speech and language therapists, dieticians, physiotherapists and psychotherapists can help this journey.

The support group aims to help those stroke victims who feel lonely or isolated. It hopes to help them gain a sense of empowerment and control; improve their coping skills and adjustment, as well as providing an opportunity to talk openly and honestly about the illness.

The group will also work towards reducing distress, depression and anxiety; it will give patients a clear understanding of what to expect of their situation; provide practical advice or information about treatment options, and learn about new medical research.

People living in this area can count themselves fortunate that South Tipp General Hospital has a first-class acute stroke unit. Headed by Dr. Christina Donlan and with Rose O’Dwyer as ward manager, the unit provides speech and language therapy and intensive physiotherapy for patients. It also has an occupational therapist and a dietician, and Multi Disciplinary meetings are held regularly to make a plan of care for patients. The unit works in partnership with the assessment unit and rehabilitation centre in Cashel.

For anyone who has the misfortune to suffer a stroke, time is of the essence in their treatment. The importance of getting victims to a hospital as quickly as possible cannot be overstated. Stroke symptoms include changes to a person’s face, as well as their ability to speak and to raise their arms.

Anyone who wishes to find out more about the Clonmel Stroke Support Group may contact Gemma Dunn at e-mail,

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