‘I thought it was a tough training session but I was actually having a stroke’ – All-Ireland winner Siobhán McGrath

A four-time All-Ireland winning footballer has revealed how she thought her stroke was little more than the after-effects of a tough game. 

Former Dublin footballer Siobhan McGrath, 35, said she had been feeling exhausted on the day of the brain attack in June last year. 

But the half-back blamed her aches and pains on a football match she played the night before. 

Siobhan woke up feeling very confused and simple daily tasks like putting on a t-shirt, opening a window and sending a work email seemed a lot more complicated than usual. Although Siobhan felt that she knew what to do, her body and brain were doing two different things.   

Recalling the horrific morning last summer, Siobhan, who lifted the Brendan Martin Cup with Dublin in 2010, 2018, 2019, and 2020, said she knew something wasn’t right when her house alarm went off and she struggled to turn it off. 

“In my mind I knew what the correct code was, but it was as if my body wouldn’t let me enter it into the keypad,” said Siobhan. 

“I remembered the F.A.S.T adverts with the signs of stroke. I looked in the mirror and my face wasn’t drooping on one side. 

“I then tried to tell myself, ‘you’re not having a stroke’, but the words didn’t come.  

“I started to speak, but simple sentences sounded like double Dutch. 

“It was at that moment that I decided to phone my mum– but it took few attempts before she could understand what I was trying to say.” 

The ‘Act F.A.S.T. – Minutes Matter’ campaign by the Irish Heart Foundation highlights a stroke’s key warning signs – Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Slurred speech and the crucial importance of Time to get medical help if you see any single one of these signs.  

Siobhan, who is an ambassador for the charity, is now encouraging more people to get to know the signs of stroke.  

A hospital scan later revealed that Siobhan, had suffered a stroke. 

Research by the Irish Heart Foundation reveals that the amount of people who recognise the vital F.A.S.T signs of one of Ireland’s biggest killers is declining, with just one in 10 knowing what F.A.S.T. stands for. 

Two million brain cells die every minute after a stroke so the quicker you get medical help, the more of the person you save.  

Today, Siobhan is back working as an accountant and playing for her club, Thomas Davis GAA in Tallaght. 

Aside from a few problems with vocabulary, she feels that she has made a full recovery. 

“Thanks to the F.A.S.T. message, I knew I needed to get help,” she said. 

“If you recognise any one of the signs get medical help immediately.  

“No one is invincible. I’m lucky that I had my family and boyfriend minding me.” 

The HSE’s National Clinical Lead for Stroke, Prof Rónán Collins, said stroke is a leading cause of death and disability in Ireland. 

“Nothing is more likely to suddenly change your life completely or end it, as a stroke – but it doesn’t always have to be the case. 

“We have made great strides in improved diagnosis, treatment and cure and in restoring people to fuller lives after stroke.  

“But the faster we recognise and seek treatment, the greater the chance of a successful outcome. Know the common signs and symptoms of stroke and if you suspect stroke act F.A.S.T. and call an ambulance immediately.”  

Share the F.A.S.T. message with friends, family and colleagues to help save a life. Learn more about stroke at: irishheart.ie/your-health/learn-about-stroke/ 

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