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Shining a light on reality of life with epilepsy

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Seven out of ten workers would choose to hide a disability from their bosses, according to a recent study.

Someone who knows all too well about the impact of having a disability that is not immediately apparent is barrister and mediator Lorraine Lally.

The 29-year-old Barna woman has lived with epilepsy since she was eight years old when she began having seizures which could be likened to daydreaming.

“It was just kind of losing time, a lot of clumsiness, I could drop a bowl for no reason. They call them focal seizures because you kind of space out but you can get badly injured. I once poured a kettle of hot water over myself which was very distressing for my parents.”

The See Beyond campaign is a joint initiative of Headway and Epilepsy Ireland, national charities working to support people with two common types of hidden disability, acquired brain injury and epilepsy.

The aim is to raise awareness about hidden disabilities in all communities in Ireland. One in 48 people are estimated to have epilepsy – the west of Ireland has one of the highest rates of neurological conditions in the world.

By the time she went to study law at Griffith College in Dublin, Lorraine had moved onto tonic-clonic seizures, which is when the body the body stiffens and the muscles start jerking.

“It has a serious impact on a family – it’s very distressing to see somebody having these seizures, it can be unnerving, parents and siblings carry a lot of worry with them so they need to have support as well.”

Lorraine remembers all too well the regular trips to Dublin hospitals for treatment as there were no paediatric neurologists in the west, something that remains unchanged even after 20 years. Before being admitted to the epilepsy unit in Beaumont last Christmas for an indepth study of her condition in a bid to improve her treatment, she had been on a waiting list for six years.

Following medication and learning to recognise the triggers for the condition – sleep deprivation, inadequate diet, stress and an unhealthy lifestyle – Lorraine has fewer seizures and now tends to have most of them in her sleep.

She knows she’s had one as her arms and legs are in pain, she struggles to get out of bed and she may have bitten her tongue.

“I fell out of the bed once and slapped my head, and cracked two ribs. I’ll never forget standing at a bus stop and I was so bruised that a woman said to me: ‘you should really leave the bastard’.”

But she has not let it get in the way of her life, going on to get a masters in international human rights law from NUIG.

“I travel, I’ve done the Camino De Santiago twice. I travel on my own and visit friends all over the world. I can’t go out partying all night, a good lifestyle does help manage it.”

Lorraine divides her time between Galway and Dublin working as a barrister and mediator in divorce, separation and immigration cases.

She recently got a grant from NUIG to deliver talks to secondary school students about how to solve conflicts through peer mediation.

She joined the See Beyond campaign in a bid to eliminate a lot of the fear and misinformation around epilepsy.

“There’s a lot of stigma around epilepsy, people I’ve spoken to say they have suffered from a lot of discrimination as a result of it,” she opines.

“I’d urge people not to be afraid to contact organisations like Epilepsy Ireland, they have an amazing community resource officer in the Westside Resource Centre who provides support over the phone or by email.”

CITY TRIBUNE

Bikers do their bit to mark anniversary of blood service

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The Blood Bike team and supporters with the charity’ s newest motorbike, Cara, during the fundraising day at the Galway Plaza. Pictured are (from left) John Moylan, Bridie Lyons (Fundraising Manager), Sean Griffin, Fergus Turner, James Treacy, Pat McDonagh, Dave O'Leary (Chairperson), Ronan Kane (Fleet Manager), and Sergio Massidda.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of Blood Bike West, and the big birthday was marked in style with a sun-drenched afternoon at Galway Plaza’s Bike Fest West.

Galway stuntman Mattie Griffin was the headline attraction; there was face painting, games, plenty of ice-cream – and hundreds of motorcycle enthusiasts and families.

The birthday celebrations kicked off with a 160-strong motorcycle spin around the Galway countryside, raising well-needed funds for the volunteering efforts of Blood Bike West.

As a 100% volunteer-run and funded organisation, donations are vitally important for Blood Bike West to continue operating their medical transport in the West of Ireland.

Since its inception in 2012, demand for their volunteers’ services continues to grow:  collecting and delivering all manner of urgent medical items regionally and nationally, such as bloods, breast milk, medicines, scans, and equipment.

In 2021 alone, Blood Bike West delivered 983 urgent medical deliveries throughout the country.

As part of Galway City Councils Community, Blood Bike West undertook to operate a 24/7 service, including 165 medication deliveries from pharmacies to the self-isolating and vulnerable during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Since Blood Bike West’s inception in 2012, this increase sees the ongoing need to replace and renew their fleet of motorcycles.

Their motorbikes, Madison, Heather, Margaret, and newly inaugurated bike Cara, are regularly seen on Galway roads, delivering consignments to and from local and regional hospitals.

 

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CITY TRIBUNE

Park fun to mark Africa Day

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Pam Mncube-Zoki of Africa United Galway, speaking at the National Integration Conference at NUI Galway last week. The group are co-organisers of Africa Day which takes place in Salthill Park on May 28. Photo:xposure

On Saturday next (May 28) in Salthill Park, Galway’s African community invites people to join them in a celebration of culture as part of the national Africa Day celebrations.

Africa United Galway, emerging from lockdown and having hosted online festivals for the past two years, will be delivering a family fun day event.

Africa Day 2022 will reinforce a collaboration between Africa United Galway and Galway Africa Diaspora, Shining Light Galway and GoCom Radio (broadcasting live), who have worked to create a festival that will showcase Galway as a city of culture.

Among the performances on the day will be Afrobeat dancer Lapree Lala of Southside Moves, who will show how to dance in African style; Elikya Band will be bringing indigenous African Congolese music; The Youth Performances will be displaying their talent in rap, singing, speaking, and dancing and for the young at heart.

Galway Afrobeat performer Dave Kody will get the crowd moving and there will be poetry through spoken word and cultural displays. There will be a photo booth and face painting and everyone will get to have a taste of African cuisines.

In the spirit of inclusion and integration, The St Nicholas Collegiate Church Parish Choir will be presenting a special African performance as well as a feature presentation by the Hession School of Irish Dance, who will be presenting the famous Riverdance.

Also organised is a football friendly between the African community and An Garda Siochana.

The Mayor, Colette Connolly, will officially be opening the event with a keynote speech and several African Ambassadors are expected to be present on the day to reinforce the culture, beauty and strength of Africa and support for its people.

Africa Day is sponsored by Irish Aid and supported by Galway City Council.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Domestic Violence Response recorded highest number of clients in 24 years under Covid ‘shadow’

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At the launch of the Domestic Violence Response (DVR) Annual Report were Rachel Doyle and Elizabeth Power of DVR, Deputy Catherine Connolly and Anne Reynolds. Photos Sean Lydon

BY TIFFANY GREENWALDT-SIMON

A domestic violence support charity in Galway has recorded its highest number of clients in 24 years – “under the shadow” of Covid-19.

Domestic Violence Response (DVR), which is based in Moycullen, also reported its highest level of counselling support sessions in its 2021 annual report published last week.

The charity saw 136 new clients in 2021, and a total of 266 people utilised its services. It also saw a significant increase of return service users.

The support service also provided 51 nights of emergency accommodation through a partnership between Airbnb, Safe Ireland, and Women’s Aid.

Elizabeth Power, Coordinator of DVR Galway, said: “Our 2021 annual report highlights the stark reality of the level of domestic violence in Galway. Under the shadow of Covid-19, DVR recorded the highest number of clients in our 24-year history and delivered the highest number of support services.

“Our staff noted increases in the level of worrying and harrowing experiences of control and abuse. The trauma of these experiences will live with our service users long after Covid-19 fades into memory.

“While Covid-19 restrictions are behind us, domestic violence continues to be present in hundreds of homes throughout Galway.

“As we move through 2022, we will continue to provide our much-needed services to women and men throughout Galway, with an extensive counselling support and advocacy service and a number of new initiatives including a partnership with the HSE which will be launched in the coming months.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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