Belfast Telegraph

How heart attack turned into a life saver for Northern Ireland siblings

Paul Leeming said his sister Joanna's heart attack means the condition can be dealt with
Paul Leeming said his sister Joanna's heart attack means the condition can be dealt with

By Matt Mathers

A brother and sister discovered they had a genetic heart condition this year after she had a cardiac arrest during a fitness session.

Glengormley siblings Joanna Ireland (58) and Paul Leeming (55) learned they have both inherited hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) after the incident in February.

Joanna said: "After I had my cardiac arrest I went through my family tree with my nurse specialist Joanne McOsker, who also then assessed Paul.

"We are so grateful for the care and support we have received from this wonderful service.

"Recovering from the physical effects of a cardiac arrest is one thing, but coping with the emotional impact of going through it and then knowing you and your brother both have this genetic condition is another.

"Although we obviously would prefer not to have it, we both feel very lucky that it was identified and are able to spend Christmas as a family, when it might have been so different," she added.

This year alone 301 new patients have been tested by Northern Ireland's Inherited Cardiac Conditions nurse-led service.

Nurse specialists Joanne, Tracy Jardine and Helen Connolly, who run the clinics, support hundreds of patients by providing information and advice.

Paul, a father-of-two, said he'll never forget when he heard about his sister having cardiac arrest.

"Thankfully, Joanna is here with us today. She told me I should also be referred to the NI ICC service. Soon after that I was called for my first appointment and I found out I have it.

"I don't think anything prepares you for hearing that. It's such a shock and it makes you really frightened.

"I was anxious that something could happen to me at any moment. But the doctors told me that thanks to Joanna having her cardiac arrest and being given a diagnosis of HCM, I am one of the lucky ones because I know I have the condition, which can be managed. She has saved my life," he added.

HCM causes the wall of the heart muscle to thicken, making it harder for the heart to pump blood around the body.

The siblings are backing British Heart Foundation NI's Christmas campaign, which hopes to raise over half a million pounds for life saving research into all heart and circulatory diseases.

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