Pauline McLynn has told how losing both of her parents to stroke inspired her to help drive greater awareness of its warning signs.
The star, iconic for her role as tea-obsessed housekeeper Mrs Doyle in Father Ted, lost her mum Sheila, 86, last October – 17 years after stroke also claimed the life of her father Padraig, 69.
“I expect it might be written in the stars somewhere for me and it’s simply because my parents have gone that way that I want to highlight it so that people are aware,” she said.
Pauline, 60, is supporting the Irish Heart Foundation’s ‘Act F.A.S.T. – Minutes Matter’ campaign to drive greater awareness of stroke’s key warning signs: facial drooping, arm weakness, slurred speech – and the crucial importance of time.
“The F.A.S.T. message is simple and I’d like to think if my name is on one (stroke) that there will be someone close by who knows what to do,” she said at a photocall in Dublin Castle today. (Feb7)
“It is just reminding people to think that way if they have any suspicions, it’s better to be safe than sorry, and time is the one to remember.”
New data shows an alarming decline in stroke sufferers getting to hospital in time to receive potentially lifesaving clot busting treatment in Ireland.
Only 46% of stroke patients arrive at hospital within the recommended three-hour window, despite quick action potentially meaning the difference between recovery, permanent severe disability or death.
Recalling the sudden death of her father in 2005, the actor and author said: “He was at work in Mayo having his lunch one day and had a massive stroke. He ended up in Castlebar Hospital and 10 days later, he died.
“His (brain) electrics went, but physically, he had a great rest and looked fabulous. He just had one of those devastating strokes from which there was no coming back.
“He would have been thrilled with that, he didn’t want to grow old and he didn’t like old people!
“Sadly, my mum, who had a number of other things wrong with her and was in Galway hospital (UHG), also had a massive stroke.
“But despite losing two parents to it, it doesn’t make me feel there’s no hope – the quicker someone can be treated, the better the prognosis.
“It’s amazing the amount of people who have had strokes – and a number of people I know survived them.”
The Galway-raised former EastEnders and Shameless star is in Kilkenny this month filming a new murder mystery series for Channel 5 in the UK.
She remembers her parents as ‘super, lively and mischievous’, never standing in the way of her acting ambitions.
“We were brought on holidays every year to the seaside, picnics at the weekend and we were never discouraged from doing anything.
“I drifted into drama and acting and they never once took me to one side, they were very open minded.”
Although despising New Year resolutions, she has embraced sea swimming and promised herself a “full MOT” – also joining a gym near her home in Dublin’s Phibsboro, where she enjoys aqua-aerobics several times a week.
“I am starting to look after myself a little more, I’m a bit fitter now.
“One of the things I learned after becoming involved in the stroke campaign is that there is such hope, the quicker you deal with it, the better your chances of survival.”
Learn more about stroke at: irishheart.ie/your-health/learn-about-stroke/