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All fired up for latest awareness challenge

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Nicola Lavin, whose Chilli Challenge idea for creating awareness of ME, is set to go global. “It is extreme exhaustion,” she says of how it affected her. “You have no energy to feed yourself, you can’t stand up, you can’t brush your teeth. You are freezing all the time and the muscle pain is constant.” Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Lifestyle – Judy Murphy meets Nicola Lavin, a Galway woman spearheading the worldwide Chilli ME Challenge

First it was the Ice Bucket Challenge in aid of research into Motor Neuron Disease. Now things are going from freezing cold to red hot, thanks to Galway woman Nicola Lavin who has spearheaded the Chilli ME Challenge. This initiative is to raise awareness of and help fund research into Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, otherwise known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Nicola, who is originally from Menlo and now lives in Headford, is one of some 12,000 people in Ireland with ME – it has affected her life since her early 20s.

Nicola suffered from heart failure after giving birth to her son Aaron almost 14 years ago, and after that, she developed a mild form of ME. Medics thought that she had come into contact with a virus which caused her heart problems and also acted as a trigger for ME.

This is a condition which leads the body’s immune system to malfunction, affecting every organ, especially the neurological and endocrine systems. There are many theories about the cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, ranging from viral infections or psychological stress, but there are no definite answers and no single test to confirm a diagnosis.

For that reason it has often been dismissed as not being a real illness with cynics describing it as ‘the Yuppie Flu’.

Nicola acknowledges that, like many others, she would have been dismissive of the illness before it affected her.

“Somebody I knew had it, and I used to think ‘if she got out more or exercised more, she’d be fine’,” she says. But Nicola learned that with ME exercise wasn’t possible because she wasn’t physically able. If she tried to exercise, it simply made her worse.

Listening to this smart, no-nonsense, chatty woman who works as a Medical Science Technician at UHG, describe the impact of ME on her life, it’s perfectly apparent that all her symptoms were real and identifiable. And they were horrible, especially in recent times.

The ME Nicola experienced after Aaron’s birth was relatively mild, allowing her to “work and play sports, but I’d get a relapse for a week or two every now and again, and I found it hard to fight off infections”.

By and large, she coped well back then, but that changed when she got orthodontic work done five or six years ago. Afterwards, she suffered a marked deterioration and her condition went from mild to more severe, which had a profound impact on her life.

“It is extreme exhaustion,” she says of how it affected her. “You have no energy to feed yourself, you can’t stand up, you can’t brush your teeth. You are freezing all the time and the muscle pain is constant.”

For Nicola, the worst part was the impact on her memory and cognitive skills.

This articulate woman, who had spent five years in college, suddenly found she couldn’t remember certain, basic words. It made her job and her life difficult and resulted in total frustration for someone who is naturally chatty and sociable.

A cardiologist sent her to a specialist in myalgic encephalomyelitis, which wasn’t an entirely positive experience. Nicola was given anti-depressants, but they didn’t work because she wasn’t depressed. If she was feeling down, it was because she was exhausted and her life was restricted by her ME. The underlying illness needed to be dealt with, and no medic seemed able to help with that.

“You are going to from doctor to doctor, feeling like you could die and they say ‘there’s nothing we can say exactly is wrong with you’.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

Galway In Days Gone By

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Prizewinners at Ballinasloe Show on October 5, 1970. From left: Matthew Conneely, Kilconnell, Matthew Conneely (Junior), John Callanan, Calla, Kilconnell and Seán Conneely, Kilconnell.

1921

Grim legacy

“What did we get from the Government in the Famine?” asked the Most Rev. Dr. Duggan. And the answer was, “The Poorhouses.” They came as a legacy of these grim years, a miserable palliative instead of a radical cure.

When 1845 opened, there were 114 of them throughout Ireland, and impoverished ratepayers had to pay for their upkeep. Their erection was, indeed, in some measure, instituted as a relief work.

The famine had swept over the land, leaving us the most tragic chapters in our history. Grim, black death in a country where there was plenty, if only it had been efficiently distributed, and kept for the hapless people at home.

The Irish Poor Law was rooted in misery, and continued throughout all these years as a cumbersome degradation, designed for the encouragement of the mendicant and the wastrel, to crush the last vestige of self-respect from those whom it once caught within its toils.

With the exception of the admirable boarding-out systems instituted by some of our more humane boards – notably Galway Guardians, whose clerk took a keen personal interest in making some of his charges into good citizens – we know no instance in which the vicious Poor Laws as operated in Ireland did anything but harm.

They ground down the ratepayers; they did not serve the poor in any measure commensurate with the expenditure involved in an army of officials, an array of buildings that badged with poverty one of the finest agricultural countries in the world.

Unions amalgamated

On the motion of Dr. Walsh, Galway Co. Council at its quarterly meeting on Saturday finally adopted a scheme for “the amalgamation of the county unions” – in reality, for doing away with the unions altogether as such.

The scheme under which the Poor Laws of the country will be administered on an entirely new basis, will be as follows: One central hospital for Galway with motor ambulances; one central home for the old and infirm in Tuam or Loughrea; children to be sent to an institution for which one workhouse may be used; unmarried mothers to be divided into two classes – first offenders to be dealt with in the same institution as the children and old offenders to be sent to the Magdalen Asylum; insane and epileptics to be put in a county home at present until they can be specially dealt with.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Preying for success

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John Carrig with Erin. PHOTO: JOE O'SHAUGHNESSY.

Lifestyle A voluntary group working to ensure the survival and success of Ireland’s endangered barn owl is getting a positive response from landowners and schools throughout Galway. Its founder, wildlife photographer John Carrig, tells STEPHEN CORRIGAN how small changes can make a big difference and how the Barn Owl Project plans to spread its wings and work with community groups nationwide.

When wildlife photographer John Carrig founded the Barn Owl Project in 2019, what was known about this endangered species of bird’s presence throughout Galway was limited to say the least.

Official records from BirdWatch Ireland documented just six or eight nesting sites around the county, but since John and the team behind the project got to work, up to 50 have been identified.

While some of these have been created through the placement of nest boxes by this team of local volunteers whose work extends beyond just Galway, many more nests were there just waiting to be discovered – and protected.

The Barn Owl Project’s work is not limited to the location of unregistered sites, though. A huge part of what the volunteers do is education, through visiting schools and community groups and through talking to landowners who, in many ways, hold the fate of these mesmerising creatures in their hands.

One of the main threats posed to the barn owl is secondary poisoning with rodenticide – when the owl feeds on rats and mice that have been poisoned, causing them to die as a result.

This, coupled with a lack of suitable nesting sites and road collisions, has led to a declining population, to the point where the barn owl now has ‘red conservation status’.

“The barn owl has always been well-known in Ireland, but most people have never seen one. It’s called the ‘scréachóg reilige’ in Irish and 150 years ago, people would have known them as ‘the Banshee’, because of the noise they make,” says John.

“They were very prevalent in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s and were known as the farmer’s friend because they were a way of controlling rodents. Farmers would leave a hole in the apex of the barn because they knew it would attract them in,” he adds, although despite their name, they don’t necessarily nest in barns.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Revive Active launches a supplement for menopause

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Health, Beauty and Lifestyle with Denise McNamara

A lot of us got in on the Revive Active supplements when they were the brainchild of Galway man Dáithi O’Connor in 2011.  Hot on the heels of its supplements specifically formulated for juniors and teens – and following two years of research – the Galway-headquartered company has launched a new super supplement range for women to take during and after menopause.

Meno Active has a sachet and capsule to be taken together once daily containing 30 vitamins, minerals, omega 3, digestive enzymes, plant extracts and strains of live friendly bacteria.

Ingredients include Vitamin B6 to regulate hormones, biotin, magnesium, thiamine and iodine for the nervous system, omega 3 for brain function, vitamin C to counteract tiredness, and the plant extracts ashwagandha for stress, sage for perspiration and memory loss and green tea to help with blood pressure.

When I went to see a practitioner for symptoms of perimenopause, I was prescribed about 10 different supplements, many of them these ones, which cost a small fortune. I needed a reminder on my phone throughout the day to remember which ones to take and when.

Meno Active costs €60 a month and is recommended for at least three months to help ease the long, long list of horrible symptoms that the change of life may bring.

I’ve been taking this for nearly a month and it’s very easy to take – the only rule is take it 30 minutes before food. It tastes pleasant enough, kind of citrusy, I just mix it in a glass of cool boiled water.

I’ve definitely had a burst of energy with it and it’s helped with night sweats already. Not so sure whether it will help with the mood swings, which my family tell me are shocking, but I will give it another two months to see if that miracle is going to bless this house.

Available from most chemists and health food shops.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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