Rare heart disease: Mum of five believed she had flu
Una Fahey was a busy mother of five sports-mad sons when she started to suffer what she believed were symptoms of flu.
Ms Fahey (58), from Gort in Galway, took to her bed for two days, hoping the illness would pass and she would recover her strength.
But when she saw her GP her condition caused concern and she was rushed to hospital by ambulance.
She discovered she had endocarditis, a rare and potentially fatal infection of the inner lining of the heart, and she ended up in theatre two days later where she had valves replaced.
"I had no idea I had the condition.
"I had a swollen hand and a leg cramp, which I never got previously, but I was unaware they were serious symptoms," she said.
She was recalling her traumatic experience to highlight European Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week and alert others who have similar symptoms to seek medical help.
Symptoms such as breathlessness, dizziness, swelling of hands or feet and fatigue are sometimes mistaken for old age when they may be signs of a potentially serious condition.
Neil Johnson, chief executive of Croí, said: "We often find that patients are blaming age for changes in how they feel, believing this is just how it is and not talking to their doctor about them.
"Some of these symptoms can be due to heart valve disease so don't put off talking to your GP.
"Delays in seeking a medical opinion can be a mistake. Moving quickly on, heart valve disease can make a significant difference to a patient's future.
"It could, quite literally, mean the difference between life and death."
Symptoms can include tiredness, shortness of breath, tight chest, swelling of the ankles or feet, dizziness, fainting, heart murmur or rapid or irregular heartbeat.
Ms Fahey spent several weeks in hospital but is now back to supporting her sons at hurling matches and taking regular medication to manage the condition.