Gerry and pacemaker backs heart campaign

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A Londonderry man who collapsed with a sudden heart attack in the city fourteen years ago is backing a new campaign urging people not to hesitate before calling 999 if they feel they’re in trouble.

Gerry Clancy had two stents fitted after his cardiac arrest.

He recalls: “I had just driven home with my wife and son. I must have been feeling very warm, as I remember going into the bedroom and taking my t–shirt off.”

The next moment Gerry collapsed. He was rushed to Altnagelvin and his family were told that the next 24 hours were critical. The following day he was taken to the RVH in Belfast for surgery – these were the days before Altnagelvin had its own angioplasty service.

His daughter Jacqui describes it as the scariest car journey of her life. Thankfully Gerry pulled through the surgery and the two stents he had fitted seemed to do the trick.

Eventually in 2011, Gerry was fitted with an ICD, an implantable cardioverter defibrillator. In layman’s terms, this is a pacemaker which monitors his heartbeat and if it detects a problem with his heart rhythms, the defib will kick in and shock his heart back action. He also took home an “interrogator”, one of the first patients in Northern Ireland to do so, which is a machine that receives data from the ICD and transmits it to the RVH where any changes in his condition can be picked up without delay.

The combination of the stents and the ICD has made a huge difference to Gerry’s life. In June he went on his first overseas holiday in 15 years. He also volunteers for charity and is planning to help NICHS distribute information about heart attack symptoms in the area where he lives.

Gerry didn’t get much warning about his heart attack but he still recognises the importance of getting help quickly. He was rushed to Altnagelvin where treatment started immediately.

The first 24 hours are critical so the sooner you get help the better, and now that Altnagelvin has its own angioplasty services, treatment is even quicker.