A BROTHER and sister diagnosed with a genetic heart condition after one was left in a coma with a shock cardiac arrest are urging people to donate to a Christmas appeal to fund lifesaving research.
Joanna Ireland (58) and her brother Paul Leeming (55), both from Glengormley, Co Antrim, discovered this year that they both have the inherited heart condition, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), which causes the heart muscle wall to thicken.
The siblings only learned they had the potentially life-threatening condition after Mrs Ireland suffered a cardiac arrest during a fitness session in February.
Leisure centre staff performed CPR and used a defibrillator to save the mother-of-three's life.
"I’ll never forget the call from my brother-in-law to say that Joanna had a cardiac arrest and was in hospital in an induced coma," Mr Leeming said.
"Everyone who knows her knows how fit and active she is so it was a huge shock."
After Mrs Ireland learned she had HCM she went through her family tree with nurse specialist Joanne McOsker who also then assessed her brother who has also been diagnosed with the same condition.
She has been fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) and the father-of-two is scheduled to have one fitted.
Their family is supporting British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland (BHF NI)'s Christmas Appeal, which aims to raise over half a million pounds for life-saving research into all heart and circulatory diseases, including inherited heart conditions.
BHF NI funds the Miles Frost Nurse Specialist within the ICC service, allowing more people to receive the screening and treatment to prevent sudden death.
"We are so grateful for the care and support we have received from this wonderful service," Mrs Ireland said.
"Recovering from the physical effects of a cardiac arrest is one thing but coping with the emotional impact of going through it and then knowing you and your brother both have this genetic condition is another."
"Although we obviously would prefer not to have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy we both feel very lucky that it was identified and are able to spend Christmas as a family when it might have been so different."
Karen McCammon, from BHF NI said its funding for nurse specialists is "thanks to the generosity of the public".
"One in four people die from heart and circulatory diseases in Northern Ireland, but you can help keep families together this Christmas."
For more information visit: www.bhf.org.uk/Christmas