I would like to take this opportunity to convey our sincere thanks to all those who supported us through this past year. It has been a very difficult year for everyone, not least those living with or affected by cardiovascular diseases (heart, stroke, diabetes & obesity). The Covid-19 pandemic has taken its toll in so many ways, it’s almost impossible to comprehend just how things have changed so quickly.
Like all charities, this year Croí faced unprecedented challenges at a time when it was most needed by those it supports. All face-to-face activity across our health programmes, patient and carer supports, research, education and fundraising events came to an abrupt halt in March. Literally overnight, our Heart & Stroke Centre in Newcastle became an empty shell, so in support of the national emergency we offered it to the HSE for use as a central contact tracing centre. Then our health team swung into action and pivoted as many of our health programmes and patient supports as possible to online ‘virtual’ delivery. In fact, they managed to very quickly create and deliver very effective programmes to high-risk groups and even launched a first-in-Ireland approach to services like cardiac rehabilitation. Additionally, despite all the challenges, we are glad to now be providing ‘virtual’ delivery of exercise classes, lifestyle change programmes, stroke support meetings and much more.
The biggest impact of Covid-19 globally has been on those living with known cardiovascular conditions. In the early days of the pandemic, extremely high levels of fear, anxiety, loneliness and isolation was experienced by those for whom access to primary and secondary care was severely interrupted; hospital appointments and procedures were postponed or cancelled and visits to those in hospital or care homes was denied. In parallel, many people experienced heart and stroke events but due to their fears of contracting the virus they delayed or even avoided seeking medical attention with resulting worse outcomes. Against this background we experienced a huge jump in the number of calls we were receiving from patients and family members so we launched a free support service, Heartlink West, which has now supported thousands of people across the West via daily telephone, online and virtual consultations. This new service allows people living with heart disease and stroke, or those concerned about their heart health, to contact Croí and connect with our multidisciplinary health team of nurses, dietitians, physiotherapists and exercise specialists. While the Heartlink West service will close for a short period over the Christmas holidays, it will open again on January 6th. (Tel 091-544310 or www.croi.ie)
Despite all the challenges and uncertainties faced by everyone over the past year, we are inspired and heartened by the many who continued to contribute financially at a time when they themselves were struggling. We couldn’t survive without this partnership and we wish to convey our deep appreciation and gratitude to all our donors, volunteers, corporate and business supporters who continued to give this year despite their own very difficult circumstances. We got through 2020 thanks to huge public support and a highly dedicated and committed staff, voluntary board of directors and a large team of volunteers. We don’t take this support for granted and we realise how fortunate we are to have this. We are preparing now for 2021 and we are committed to continuing to make a difference to the lives of those living with or affected by heart disease and stroke.
Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and peaceful Christmas and the very best for the new year.
Chief Executive, Croí