Cardiologist and fundraiser honoured for inspirational charity efforts

Two inspirational Northern Ireland women have won major charity awards for their outstanding efforts in supporting heart disease patients and raising money for life saving heart research.

Thursday, 30th September 2021, 9:41 am
Updated Thursday, 30th September 2021, 10:02 am

Dr Susan Connolly a Consultant Cardiologist in the Western Trust was named Healthcare Hero and Lisa Brown, a heart failure patient from Magherafelt was named Innovative Fundraiser at last night’s British Heart Foundation (BHF) UK Heart Hero Awards 2021.

Dr Connolly leads the Our Hearts Our Minds Programme for cardiovascular health service in the Western Trust. The innovative programme, delivered by a nurse-led multidisciplinary team including dieticians, physiotherapists/exercise professionals and psychologists aims to help patients and their families to reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke.

When the pandemic began in March 2020, despite a higher workload and being given the additional role of discharge coordinator for the Trust, Dr Connolly continued to innovate and ensure patients continued to have access to the programme by quickly transitioning it to a virtual platform.

Lisa Brown.

This included virtual assessments via video and phone as well as virtual group education sessions with other patients to provide that vital peer and clinical support. She led the team in making educational videos for patients to watch the Trust’s YouTube channel and also developed a partnership with Fitbit so all patients were offered Fitbits to help them monitor their physical activity levels.

Dashboard

The team were then able to track them on a dashboard as well as push them personalised notifications through the Fitbit app to help keep them motivated and engaged. Patients were also provided with blood pressure monitors so they could track their blood pressure at home and tape measures to measure their waist circumference. Over 600 patients have benefitted from the virtual programme with the results being equivalent to the previous fully face to face programme.

Lisa Brown won the public vote in the Innovative Fundraiser category which was introduced to acknowledge those who found creative ways of raising money as fundraising events across the UK were postponed and cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr Susan Connolly.

Lisa (48) lives with severe heart failure. She was diagnosed with Shone’s Complex, a rare congenital heart disease consisting of multiple left heart obstructive defects. Lisa had her first surgery when she was seven years old. It was Lisa’s last major surgery in 2018, to replace a faulty aortic valve that unfortunately left her fighting for her life.

Lisa spent 200 days in intensive care and now lives with severe heart failure. Although she is now dialysis dependent four times a week and is physically still recuperating she’s incredibly grateful to finally be home rebuilding her life. Lisa owns an online accessories business Brown Bag Boutique and 10 per cent of every purchase goes to British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland (BHF NI). She also recently held a birthday fundraiser for BHF NI and in total has raised almost £3000 for the charity.

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