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Mother of two invents safety device for epileptics

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A Galway entrepreneur and recent graduate is making waves in the medical device industry with her award-winning innovation EpiSafe – a monitor and alarm system for those diagnosed with epilepsy – which was inspired by the death of her own brother.

As part of her Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing course, 40 year old mother of two Audrey Holland undertook the Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise module in her final year at NUI Galway.

Through this module she was required to engage in group based projects with the aim to develop a unique enterprising idea – which in Audrey’s case went back to a tragic loss in her own family a short while beforehand.

Audrey’s brother Trevor Tierney tragically passed away from an epileptic seizure in March 2014 aged just 30.

“My brother Trevor passed away from a seizure and I suffer from a milder form of it myself, so I know how vulnerable it can be for someone with epilepsy,” she explained.

Now, under Audrey’s leadership, her group developed a unified epilepsy monitoring and alarm system called EpiSafe, which won the first place Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise Award in 2015.

The concept of EpiSafe is the amalgamation of modern hardware and software design to monitor the triggers of an epileptic seizure in a non-invasive way.

“I had an engineering friend who was a great help in terms of the hardware side of the project,” said Audrey.

Wirelessly connected to the user’s phone, the device is worn on the wrist and gathers data related to the user’s blood oxygen level, heart pulse rate and movement to determine the factors that triggers a seizure.

The device will then trigger an alarm to notify user selected individuals or services in the event of an epileptic seizure.

EpiSafe was also one of top ten finalist innovations at the Irish Student Entrepreneur awards in 2015.

At the moment, the company is now in an important stage of development and is seeking funding from investors in order to advance to the next stage of production, including developing a prototype and carrying out clinical trials.

The device may well be adapted for cardiac patients in the future, as the modifications needed wouldn’t be too dissimilar to the original device, explained Audrey, but for the moment the aim is to obtain funding for EpiSafe’s development.

In addition, Audrey is also applying for an all-female funding grant from Enterprise to help with the development.

The recent graduate admits that though the research isn’t easy, she thoroughly enjoyed working on the device and looks forward to the development stage.

“I wouldn’t say it’s easy work but, like anything in the world, if you have an interest in what you do, it’s easy.”

According to Irish Health statistics there are currently up to 40,000 people who are estimated to suffer from epilepsy in Ireland, while the debilitating condition affects approximately 50 million people worldwide.

One of the major concerns for sufferers and their family members is the associated vulnerability and potential danger that comes with the sporadic nature of epileptic seizures.

Naturally, this can have a serious impact on the quality of life of all concerned and more importantly, can have a detrimental effect on the ability of the individual with epilepsy to live an independent lifestyle.

“Anything that can help someone lead a more normal and independent life is definitely worth the work put in,” she explained.

Audrey is heading up to Dublin later this month for a networking evening run by the Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow Programme and will be talking to a number of budding female entrepreneurs.

Her EpiSafe company is one of the first start-up companies involved with the Galway entrepreneur incubation programme StartX6 run by Dave Cunnigham, winner of the Top Outstanding Young People of Galway Award with JCI Galway.

The innovation hub enlist creative individuals with a business proposition every six months, who are then supported, mentored and driven to the launch of their business by StartX6’s panel of experienced professionals and entrepreneurs.

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City publican in heroic River Corrib rescue

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A city publican who last week helped save the life of a woman who had entered the waters of the Corrib off Wolfe Tone Bridge has made an appeal for young people to ‘look out for each other’.

Fergus McGinn, proprietor of McGinn’s Hop House in Woodquay, had been walking close to Jury’s Inn when he saw the young woman enter the river.

He then rushed to the riverbank on the Long Walk side of the bridge, jumped into the water, spoke to the woman and stayed with her until the emergency services arrived.

The incident occurred at about 3.45pm on Friday last, and a short time later the emergency services were on the scene to safely rescue the woman.

“She was lucky in that the river level was very low and she didn’t injure herself on the rocks and stones just under the water.”

He also appealed to the public to support in whatever they could the work being done by groups like the Claddagh Watch volunteers.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Pubs face court – for serving booze on their doorsteps!

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Gardaí have warned city publicans that alcohol cannot be served outside their own premises – even in newly-created on-street spaces designated by Galway City Council as suitable for outdoor dining.

Councillor Mike Crowe (FF) said three Gardaí visited a number of city centre pubs on Thursday afternoon informing them that drinking outdoors was not allowed under licensing laws.

“They warned publicans and restaurants that the area outside their premises is not covered by the licence, and therefore under national legislation, they are breaking the law, because they are not entitled to sell alcohol in non-licensed areas.

“The operators were told that this was an official warning, and they will be back again in a few days and if it persisted, they [Gardaí] would have no option but to issue a charge and forward files to the Director of Public Prosecution. You could not make this up.

“All of the big operators were visited, and received an official warning, and they will be charged if they persist. According to the guards, they’re getting instructions from [Garda headquarters in] Phoenix Park,” he said.

The matter will be raised at a meeting of the Galway City Joint Policing Committee on Monday.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Call for 50% affordable homes in new Galway City Council estates

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The next Galway City Development Plan should include a greater provision for affordable housing than that recommended by Government, a meeting of the City Council has heard.

Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) told the meeting that while it was the Government’s intention to introduce a stipulation that new estates should have 10% affordable housing, Galway should go further – building anything up to 50% affordable in developments that are led by the local authority.

The Affordable Housing Bill, which is currently working its way through the Oireachtas, proposes that all developments should have 10% affordable and 10% social housing as a condition of their approval.

Affordable housing schemes help lower-income households buy their own houses or apartments in new developments at significantly less than their open market value, while social housing is provided by local authorities and housing agencies to those who cannot afford their own accommodation.

The Council meeting, part of the pre-draft stage of forming the Development Plan to run from 2023 to 2029, was to examine the overarching strategies that will inform the draft plan to come before councillors by the end of the year and Cllr McDonnell said a more ambitious target for affordable housing was absolutely necessary.

“It must be included that at least 50% of housing must be affordable [in social housing developments],” he said.

This sentiment was echoed by Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) who questioned if the City Council was ‘tied down’ by national guidelines, or if it could increase the minimum percentage of affordable housing required locally.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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