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Rugby star Toner helped to save neighbour who suffered a stroke

'Big Dev' came across man who had collapsed by his front door


Leinster rugby player Devin Toner

Leinster rugby player Devin Toner

Leinster rugby player Devin Toner

Ireland and Leinster rugby star Devin Toner, who helped his neighbour after he had a stroke, has said he did what anyone else would have done.

Toner (34) stayed with Joe Vanek until the ambulance arrived.

"I remember I was just about to get into my car when I saw that Joe had collapsed on the floor just inside his front door," said Toner

"It was clear he was in some difficulty and I ran in to see if he was OK.

"He had already phoned the ambulance and they arrived very quickly," said Toner, who has not spoken of his role in the 2019 emergency until now.

"I just did what anyone else would do in that situation and stayed with him.

"The ambulance crew and the medics did all the work and were brilliant. It's just great to know that Joe is doing well in his recovery."

Mr Vanek suffered his stroke while alone in his Dublin 8 home but he was able to call an ambulance before crawling to his front door to open it to see if there was anyone around to help him.

The ambulance arrived promptly but Mr Vanek said it was a comfort to have Devin there as he waited.

"He crouched down and put his arm around me because I was shivering," he said.

Mr Vanek had been brushing his teeth when he suffered what he described as "like a thunderbolt hitting the side of the head and I knew it was something totally serious".

"You just knew it wasn't a headache, it just came from nowhere and suddenly floored me and I just collapsed."

Mr Vanek (70) is the former director of design for the Abbey Theatre and design associate for the Wexford Festival Opera. He has been nominated for a Tony Award twice for the Broadway production of Brian Friel's Dancing at Lughnasa.

He is also now a member of the Irish Heart Foundation's Stroke Support Group in Crumlin, Dublin.

"The stroke was caused by a blocked blood vessel in the brain, resulting in reduced and damaging oxygen levels," he said.

A recent survey shows that almost half of people in Ireland would not call an ambulance immediately if they had suffered a stroke.

Just 55pc of them would dial 999 or 112 straight away.

The foundation's new Act F.A.S.T. (Face, Arm, Speech, Time) campaign warns stroke patients how crucial early hospital treatment is to limit long-term damage.


"On average, 21 people will have a stroke every day, but 10 of them do not know they need to get to hospital as quickly as possible," said Chris Macey, head of advocacy at the Irish Heart Foundation.

"When someone has a stroke, minutes matter and they cost real lives.

"A stroke kills two million brain cells every minute - and every 60 seconds saved between having a stroke to getting effective treatment saves one week of healthy life for a patient."

"While treatments for stroke have improved dramatically over the past decade, they still rely on people getting to hospital as soon as possible after experiencing symptoms.

"One of those treatments must be administered within four and a half hours of the stroke.

"But the HSE's most recent stroke register shows that only 59pc of people who experienced one got to hospital within four hours, whereas in 2015, 56pc got there within three hours."

The Ipsos MRBI survey also revealed that a majority of people cite slurred speech as one of the main warning signs of a stroke, followed by facial weakness, the FAST message and weakness on one side of the body.

  • For more details see www.irishheart.ie.