'None of us know when we might need this service'
Most people are not familiar with what goes on in a cardiac catheterisation laboratory.
Neither was 62-year-old Sligo businessman Gerry McManus – until last St Stephen's night.
That was when he had a heart attack.
He was immediately taken to University College Hospital Galway.
There, he was treated in the hospital's cardiac catheterisation laboratory.
He had to travel to Galway as there is no such laboratory at Sligo Regional Hospital.
Now, Gerry, pictured, as chairman of the Friends of Sligo Regional Hospital, is among those spearheading a campaign to change that.
Gerry, who runs Compupac, a computer solutions company based in Finisklin, said: "There is already a comprehensive cardiac service within Sligo hospital providing excellent care.
"But there is a crucial need for additional funding to develop the service further in line with best practice.
"We hope in the future to have agreement for a permanent cardiac catheterisation laboratory to provide improved diagnostic and treatment services for patients with heart disease."
He explained that if someone needs treatment for a heart attack, or perhaps for just blocked arteries, the quicker they get to a cardiac laboratory the better.
In such a laboratory, blockages may be cleared and, if necessary, stents inserted to ensure arteries remain open.
In Sligo, emergency cardiac patients are flown to Galway by helicopter.
Those patients may then return to Sligo for recovery, followed by a cardiac rehabilitation programme.
There is also, as Gerry explained, a relationship between Sligo and St James's Hospital in Dublin for the treatment of non-emergency cardiac patients.
Diagnostic procedures such as angiograms, stress tests and echo cardiograms can be done in Sligo.
But the procedure of catheterisation – going inside the artery – cannot. And here is where a cardiac catheterisation laboratory comes in.
Of course, all this costs money.
The Friends of Sligo Regional Hospital with their Heart €2 Heart campaign have already raised €150,000. They aim to reach €250,000.
Gerry said: "The money will go toward new facilities and equipment.
"That will help improve patients' chances of survival from heart disease.
"And it will eliminate the need to travel outside the region for cardiac services."
One of the most exciting aspects of the Heart€2 Heart campaign is the newly launched texting donation service.
Gerry added: "It couldn't be easier. It takes only a few seconds.
"Simply text SLIGO to 50300 to donate. A minimum of €1.63 is guaranteed to reach the 'Heart €2 Heart' campaign from every €2 donated.
"It's that simple, day or night, every day of the week.
"The Friends of Sligo Regional Hospital are encouraging the entire community to get behind this campaign.
"Tell family and friends both at home and abroad. Encourage them to pick up the phone now and donate. Or become involved in one of the many events being organised in your local community.
"None of us know when we or one of our loved ones might need this service."
The Friends are also the newly-appointed charity partner of Sligo Rovers for 2014.
And at the end of June, they hope to have a quirky fundraiser with a line of €2 coins across the footbridge over the Garavogue.
Friends of Sligo Regional Hospital also want to reassure the public that all funds raised since the organisation was established in 2004 have been used to support the local hospital in improving the health, welfare and comfort of patients.
They stress that at no time has money been used for any other purpose.