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General Health

Migraines are NOT just bad headaches. They disrupt people’s lives. They take people away from work, from their families, from their social lives. They cause immense pain, a loss of appetite, dizziness and photophobia. 

For Ciara O’ Rourke, migraine patient and mum-of-three, her symptoms leave her with a severe throbbing headache, a pain that feels like a heaviness on her head that leaves her struggling to lift her head during an attack.

“I get a severe throbbing headache, nausea and vomiting, photophobia (sensitivity to light), lack of appetite and sensitivity to noise. As you can imagine those symptoms impact on all aspects of my life but one of the toughest ones for me is the nausea and vomiting as I can get quite severe bouts of my attack which can last three days. I also have young children, so I hate when they see me sick or I need to be away from them resting. It’s so difficult to not be able to spend time with them.”


Ciara explained that migraines are a lot more severe than people believe. “Migraine has affected my whole life. As a mum of three, having migraines means that it can sometimes be hard to look after my children. Thankfully, I have my husband who is a fantastic support system to me and he rows in where he can. In terms of my social life, it can be hard to meet friends and family and it’s hard to make plans because you never know when a migraine attack will occur. 

Ciara has been experiencing migraines since her early twenties and she’s tired of people claiming they’re simply just bad headaches, because they’re so much more than that. A study by Teva recently found that 40 percent of people believe migraine to be ‘just a bad headache’

This statistic shocked Ciara, “I know first-hand what it’s like to live with migraine and with 1 in 7 Irish people suffering from migraine, you’d think that there would be a better understanding around the condition but the awareness just isn’t there. 

She stressed, “That’s why this campaign by Teva Pharmaceuticals is so important. We want to drive awareness of the condition and hopefully reduce stigma associated with it.”

"Over the years I’ve had people who didn’t understand the full effects of migraine and assumed it was ‘just a bad headache’. I certainly have had people say to me that I should just get over it and that I was just overreacting to a headache. I am lucky that the people who know me best understand the true nature of migraines. My hope is that through this Teva campaign, we can create more awareness around migraine so that more people can understand what it is really like. Hopefully more people will begin to understand what migraine sufferers really experience and they won’t be so quick to judge."

If you are suffering with migraines, it is important to talk to your GP and get a referral to a Constultant Neurologist so that they can assess your needs properly. 

Teva launched their migraine awareness campaign this week. You can find out more about it here.


Boots has called on the people of Ireland to tackle the most common cancer – skin cancer – by proactively checking moles and pigmented lesions that they may be worried about. 

Over 11,000 cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year, with the number of cases projected to double by 2045.

Heather Feeney, Boots Pharmacist, said, “Many people in Ireland have fair skin and burn easily, and UV rays can cause skin damage even on overcast days. We have seen growing rates of skin cancer diagnosis in Ireland, but if spotted early, up to 90 percent of cases are curable. We hope the Mole Scanning Service will encourage people to be more proactive about their skin health and help identify changes that might be suspicious.”

Developed by ScreenCancer, the Boots Mole Scanning Service uses a specialist device called a SIAscope to scan moles and pigmented lesions. A member of the Boots healthcare team will obtain images of moles or pigmented lesions using the SIAscope in a private consultation room, with a consultation typically taking around 20 minutes. The images and information collected are then sent securely and assessed by a ScreenCancer Dermatology Specialist. Each person will receive an individual assessment report. 

The Mole Scanning Service costs €39 for one mole scanned, and €19 for each additional mole scan, up to a maximum of four moles. Boots Advantage points are available with the Mole Scanning Service purchase.

Boots Pharmacist Heather Feeney says: “With the Mole Scanning Service, consultation typically takes just 20 minutes, so people can avail of the service at a time that suits them, even popping in over their lunch break. It’s a good idea to be vigilant in spotting any changes to your skin, and in particular moles. As these are often in hard-to-view areas such as the back, and it’s difficult to notice gradual changes, this simple scan is a great way to either put your mind at ease, or quickly move to get further investigation if needs be. This is a part of the exciting expanding range of services by Boots Ireland to support health and wellbeing nationwide.”

As part of the service, people will also be provided with guidance on assessing their own moles using the ABCDE guide and given further advice on staying safe in the sun. 

The ABCDE guide advises people to monitor moles for:

A – Asymmetry: Irregular shape – the two halves should be symmetrical

B – Borders: Unclear, irregular or ragged boundaries against normal skin

C – Colour: Changes in colour – especially black, blue or uneven colours

D – Diameter: More than 5-6mm in diameter and changes in size

E – Evolving: Changes in shape, size and colour, itching or bleeding of existing moles, or a new mole

The Mole Scanning service has been available via Boots pharmacies internationally since 2010, with 99 percent of respondents scoring their overall satisfaction as “good or higher” and 95 percent saying they would recommend the service to others.


As the unwelcome hay fever season descends on the estimated 950,000+ sufferers living in Ireland, Boots are myth-busting some common hay fever misconceptions – including the fact that hay fever is worse in the countryside than cities.

Heather Feeney, Pharmacist at Boots Ireland says: “While many people associate hay fever with the countryside, the truth is that urban areas stay warmer longer and hold pollen in the air. Aggregated further by car fumes and city air quality, hay fever symptoms can in fact be more aggressive in the city than in the countryside.”

She continues: “Hay fever is continuing to grow, and symptoms including sinus inflammation, runny nose and eyes, coughing and sneezing are all really impactful on everyday life, so we want to encourage sufferers to understand the causes and to be prepared ahead of the peak season.”

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In addition to the city hay fever insights, other myth-busting tips highlighted by Boots Ireland include:

1) Hay fever season is just summer: while hay fever is usually a midsummer problem, it can start earlier and last until late autumn, depending on which pollen you are allergic to. There are three main types of pollen; tree pollen which is released during spring; grass pollen released during spring and summer; and weed pollen released in autumn.

2) You only develop hay fever as a child: while most people develop hay fever during childhood or as a teenager, it can in fact develop at any stage. If you are experiencing hay fever like symptoms for the first time, you can visit your pharmacist for advice.

3) Hay fever is caused by flowers: the majority of people in Ireland who suffer from hay fever are allergic to grass pollen. Pollen from flowers is not usually a trigger for hay fever sufferers.

4) Pollen levels are lower at night: converse to popular belief, there can be considerable risk of pollen at night. Throughout the day, pollen rises in the air and then descends over night as the temperature drops.

5) Anti-histamines will make you drowsy: Nowadays there are many different types of non-drowsy antihistamines available. Talking to your pharmacist can help you find the right medication to treat symptoms of hay fever.

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With the summer approaching, Boots are encouraging people to take note of its three-step hay fever management plan; protect, treat and relieve; to manage symptoms and make the most of the long-awaited sunny season.

Heather Feeney shares her top tips for managing hay fever to make the most of the summer season, both in the towns and the countryside:

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  • Wear wraparound sunglasses to help protect eyes from dust and pollen.
  • To relieve and sooth irritated and itchy eyes try eye drops or an eye mist like Boots Allergy Eye Mist (only €12.79).
  • Using petroleum jelly inside lower nostril to stop pollen entering the nasal passage.
  • Taking antihistamines like Clarityn Allergy Tablets (only €12.99) which last a full day and are non-drowsy or something like Anti-Hist Allergy tablets (only €8.99) can help relieve symptoms and allow hay fever sufferers to continue with normal day to day activities.
  • Try using a nasal spray like the Nasacort Allergy Spray (€14.99) which helps with symptoms like sneezing, itching and a stuffy or runny nose or Sudafed Nasal Spray (only €4.79) which works in minutes and lasts up to 12 hours to clear blocked noses caused by hay fever.
  • Keep a hay fever diary, tracking when and where symptoms occur. Doing this each year can help develop patterns, allowing sufferers to be more prepared in the future;
  • Lastly, be prepared for hay fever by talking to your local Boots pharmacist about medication and products to help prevent and relieve symptoms.

The newly published results of a survey on Irish people with frequent and severe migraine attacks reveal the condition is having a significant negative impact on their lives, including damaging their career progression and earnings. Migraine is Ireland’s fifth leading cause of disability, affecting almost one in eight people. While it affects people of all ages and genders it is three times more common in women than men.  

Despite its high prevalence, migraine remains a misunderstood and under-managed condition. This survey, which focusses on the small section of the population who have at least four migraines per month, was part of a global patient study undertaken by Novartis in partnership with the European Migraine and Health Alliance in 36 countries, to establish how frequent and severe migraine affects daily life. The Irish results are contained in a new report, My Migraine Voice, which was launched in Cork today.

Most (84 percent) of the respondents in the Irish arm of the survey who are in full or part-time employment or self-employed said that their migraine has negatively impacted their professional life. Some 15 percent said it has caused them to change jobs, while 13 percent changed their profession or career path due to their condition while more than one in ten (12 percent) actually lost their job because of their condition. Furthermore, many sufferers are not in receipt of sick pay for their migraine, creating financial repercussions beyond the patient and their family, in terms of lost productivity and absenteeism. Unsurprisingly, 89 percent said they fear their next migraine attack.

While most (75 percent) said their employers were aware of their condition, recognition of their condition is often poor with less than one in three saying their employer offered them any support. Issues emerge with colleagues too. Over a third (36 percent) felt judged for taking days off work with a quarter of respondents in employment saying their colleagues do not understand their migraine. A small but significant minority (8 percent) confessed to being bullied at work due to their condition.

Dr Eddie O’Sullivan, General Practitioner and Director of the Migraine Clinic at Cork University Hospital, who presented the survey results, believes that the severity of migraine and its wider impact is often misunderstood and frequently dismissed. He highlighted the high level of medical resources that are used to support and treat people with frequent and severe migraine. “While GPs like myself are most frequently visited, this group saw a neurologist an average of four times a year. Moreover, nearly a third (31percent) had to attend Accident and Emergency Departments while almost a quarter (23 percent) needed to be hospitalised due to a migraine attack. With new developments in migraine, I would hope that this will change and migraine can be better managed in the community, at Primary Care level.”

Patrick Little CEO, Migraine Association of Ireland, echoed this view. “The findings suggest a worrying inability to support and treat migraine sufferers adequately, which is particularly alarming when one considers that this is a condition that the World Health Organisation has recognised as the fourth leading cause of disability in women worldwide.”

Launching the report yesterday evening, Deputy Michael McGrath said that despite the severity of the condition, a large number of people with frequent migraine continue to work. “Yet this report really drives home the negative impact migraine is having on their professional careers. It highlights the daily struggles that they face, the career paths that have changed or stalled completely and the jobs that have been lost, all of which point to the huge personal and financial burden that comes with this painful condition.“

Other results from the survey include:

  • Most Irish patients (89 percent) with frequent or severe migraine spend long periods in darkness or isolation, on average 32 hours per month.
  • 89 percent of those with frequent or severe migraine are taking a preventative treatment. However most of the treatments are not actually licenced for migraine
  • For 73 percent, each attack last more than a day, with 20 percent saying their attacks lasted up to three days.
  • 71 percent said that migraine interfered substantially in their daily lives with 94 percent cancelling plans in the previous month due to migraine attacks.

For full details of the survey, My Migraine Voice, visit www.novartis.ie


The vast majority of us feel we could do with putting in a little more effort when it comes to maintaining or improving our fitness levels.

When social media is awash with countless #fitspo posts and innumerable gym selfies, it can be difficult not to feel like you're falling short in a society seemingly obsessed with squats, deadlifts and gains.

But if you think this feeling may ultimately work to your benefit and force you to step up, recent research suggests that it may actually do more harm than good.

According to a study conducted at Stanford University, believing you are lazy or less active than your peers can have a serious impact on your health, and in some cases reduce your life span.

Using data collected from more than 60,000 people in the United States over two decades ago, researchers established a connection between a lack of belief in one's fitness ability and recorded deaths.

Commenting on the significance of the findings, researcher, Alia Crum, said: "Our findings fall in line with a growing body of research suggesting that our mindsets – in this case, beliefs about how much exercise we are getting relative to others – can play a crucial role in our health."

Highlighting the impact mindset has on one's physical health, she continued: "It’s time that we start taking the role of mindsets in health more seriously."

"In the pursuit of health and longevity, it is important to adopt not only healthy behaviours, but also healthy thoughts."

"So much effort, notably in public health campaigns, is geared toward motivating people to change their behaviour: eat healthier, exercise more and stress less. But an important variable is being left out of the equation: people’s mindsets about those healthy behaviours."

The study was published in the journal of Health Psychology.


Our generation often gets branded as lazy and entitled, but this couldn't be further from the truth.

Most of us are constantly working, thanks to the Internet.

Being able to be online or connected to your email means that we rarely just work our 9-5 job.

Often our work spills over into our weekends and evenings.


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Now research from VHI has shown that nearly 80 percent of employees believe that mental health issues are of increasing concern.

Additionally, 67 percent of those surveyed said they need to take more care of their mental health.

Even though workers are drawing these conclusions, they're still hesitant to reach out for help. 

A staggering 61 percent have never sought help and half of the people surveyed actually believe that they must hide the stress they feel at work if they are to maintain their career prospects.

Furthermore, 41 percent said they would even hide their mental health from a friend.


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Researches said the report represents worrying levels of unhappiness, dissatisfaction and stress amongst a significant proportion of the working population.

In particular, those under 34 and people working in the tech industries characterise their levels of stress as problematic rather than as part of the normal cut and thrust of life.

Attempting to tackle this problem by giving young professionals the tools to maintain their mental and physical health is Jamie White alongside The Happy Pear.

On January 5 in Dublin Castle, the duo along with Alison Canavan, an award-winning author and wellness coach, and Fiona Brennan will be offering their expert advice.

The Fresh Resolutions Conference will be covering topics such as nutrition and training, wellness and mental health, goal setting and personal motivation, budgeting and financial planning.


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If this sounds like something that would float your boat, you can get tickets here

If you're struggling with your mental health, help is only a click away.

You can find helplines and support services here.


Period week is probably the hardest time of the month when you are trying to be healthy.

Thanks to those hormones, all you want is to crawl onto the couch under a blanket with a bottomless carton of cookie dough ice-cream.

While cramps, bad skin, back and breast pain are on the menu, there are good food options you should try and include in your diet to make you feel better. 

Iron is your friend…

Losing blood probably means you are running low on iron, which makes you feel weak, tired, probably moody, and could lead to anaemia.

To prevent it, choose food that provides a good amount of iron, such as clams, mussels, red meat, leafy greens, beans and legumes.

Dark chocolate is also a good source of the mineral, should you need another reason to always keep a supply at your desk. 

… and so is vitamin C

To enhance iron absorption, you need to make sure to get enough vitamin C, which also helps you feel more energised.

Good sources of vitamin C are kiwis, oranges, mangoes, strawberries, as well as broccoli and peppers.

Don’t forget magnesium 

While magnesium is essential to prevent premenstrual syndrome (whose effects include mood swings, irritability, anxiety, bloating, fluid retention, breast pain or headaches), it is also an important nutrient you need during your period, as it helps relieve muscle pain, stress and tensions in the body.

Go for bananas, nuts, spinach, porridge, quinoa and dark chocolate and you should meet your daily needs.

Calcium calms the cramps

Calcium has been shown to help reduce menstrual pain so if you suffer from cramps, watch your calcium intake.

Dairy products are obvious sources of calcium but almonds, kale, broccoli, oats, spinach, beans and tofu also provide a healthy amount of the mineral.

Good fats are anti-inflammatory

Salmon, sardines and mackerel are among the good sources of Omega 3, a fatty acid that helps combat inflammation. If you don’t like fish, avocado and rapeseed oil also contain a lot of Omega 3.

Do as well as you can, but no pressure…

We know it might be hard to find motivation to go to the gym and reach for healthy food at that time of the month, but maybe you could, say, eat your ice-cream, but have a healthy stir-fry beforehand to make sure you get all the nutrients you need?


The HSE has revealed that 221 women have been affected by the cervical screening scandal. They shared that the figure jumped from 209 to 221 after an additional 12 cases were confirmed.

HSE Director General John Conaghan shared the new figure with the Public Accounts Committee this morning.

It was also revealed that a review of the affected women’s smear tests has not yet started. The review of over 3,000 smear tests was meant to be completed by May.

The review will be carried out by the Royal College of Obstetricians as well as the British Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology.
It was also shared that nearly 40 women have taken a cases against the HSE. Only three cases have been settled so far.

There are currently 35 active cases against the HSE.

Terminally-ill Emma Mhic Mhathúna recently settled her case against the HSE and a lab in the US. The mum-of-five’s case was settled for €7.5 million.

Mum-of-two Vicky Phelan also settled her case for €2.5 million.

Both mums were given incorrect smear test results, delaying their cervical cancer diagnosis.

The Cervical Check controversy has affected thousands of women in Ireland. They were not informed about a clinical audit that was carried out on their results.

It is believed that some of the woman affected by the scandal could have benefited from an early diagnosis.


We'd wager that there are more than a few of you out there today sporting some very unwelcome sunburn.

With temperatures in the mid to late twenties across the country over the weekend, the vast majority of us wasted no time shedding our clothes and exposing our pale skin to the sun's rays.

And now we're all paying for it.

If you woke up looking like a lobster and feeling pretty damn foolish this morning, don't worry because we've got your back on this one.

1. Drink ALL the water

Your skin is quite literally burnt right now, and likely going through a process known as vasodilation which means your blood vessels are dilating and your skin is losing water.

This process can make you feel oh-so dehydrated and sluggish, so you need to chug on water in order to treat your internal system.

If you don't fancy making your way through pints of water, why not add some mint and lemon or stock up on coconut water which is just as beneficial?

2. Stock up on natural yoghurt

Chock-full of countless probiotics and enzymes which help to treat our skin, live natural yoghurt is a must if the weekend has left you sore and peeling.

Opt for natural (as opposed to flavoured) and apply a handful to the burned areas.

When you feel the yoghurt beginning to soothe the affected body parts, allow it to sit for five minutes before gently washing it off with cool water.

3. Avoid strong shower gels

The last thing any of us fancy when we're sunburned is a hot and steamy shower, but it's worth reassessing your entire shower routine during this time.

Avoid soap and suds while you're treating your sunburn as your skin is obviously in a very fragile condition and won't thank you for layering it with chemicals,

Finish every cool shower or bath with an Aloe Vera gel or moisturiser.

4. Collect all the cucumbers

We all know cucumber has a soothing, refreshing element which is why we often rest them over our eyes.

But have you ever thought to apply it to sunburn?

Throw a couple of chilled cucumbers into a blender along with some Aloe Vera gel and apply to the affected areas.

5. Milk it for all its worth

And no, we don't mean demanding days off work simply because you fell asleep in the sun after one too many cans.

Instead, apply cool, not cold, milk to a clean facecloth and rest it on your sunburn.

The milk will create a film on your sunburn that boasts a protein base which will help to lessen irritation and ultimately soothe the damaged skin.



Most of us have a morning routine.

Some involve a mini heart attack, a frantic search for keys and a mad dash for the door.

Others include an invigorating shower, a leisurely breakfast and a brisk stroll to the Luas.

No matter which camp you fall into, a recent survey suggests you’d certainly be in the minority if your morning routine includes taking a folic acid tablet.

According to research conducted by safefood, 80 per cent of women check their social media as part of their routine while just 25 per cent include folic acid in theirs.

Commenting on the study’s findings, Dr Marian O’Reilly Chief Specialist in Nutrition with safefood said she was pleased by women’s focus on healthy breakfasts and regular dental hygiene, but stressed the importance of including folic acid in the morning routine.

“It’s great to see that over 70 per cent of Irish women report starting their day with a healthy breakfast and 95 per cent brush their teeth every morning. What we want women to do is to take on a new healthy habit – take a daily 400 microgram folic acid supplement – it’s even easier than brushing your teeth and takes only seconds to do.”

“Folic acid prevents most neural tube defects like spina bifida in the first few weeks of pregnancy at a time when most women are unaware they’re pregnant. With 50 per cent of all pregnancies unplanned, taking folic every morning gets you into a healthy habit, even if a baby is the last thing on your mind.”

Urging women to consider including the element in their daily routine, Dr. Aileen McGloin, Communications Manager, Digital and Health at safefood, said: “Almost half the women in our survey said the best way to create a new healthy habit is to be prepared.”

“With folic acid, keep it near your toothbrush, beside your bed or somewhere that will remind you to take it as part of your morning routine,“ she added. “Setting a reminder on your phone or committing to a new habit were also mentioned by women as successful ways to create a new habit.”


There are few among us who don't – on some level – know that we should be drinking more water.

And while we may chug a litre before, during and after a work-out or drink it by the bucket-load when we're hungover, not all of us are as judicious when it comes to staying hydrated on a day-to-day basis.

If you respond well to limits and like to know when you're hitting a target, then it might be worth considering your water intake in relation to your body weight.

Here's what you need to do:

Establish your weight in lbs and divide that figure in half. This figure is the number of ounces of water you need to consume per day.

And since we work in litres here, you should know that there are 33 ounces to every litre.

It's also important to note that this calculation is based on the body at rest which means when you're sitting at your desk or pottering around your house, but it's a good starting point, right?


Despite feeling confident in her body, mum-of-two, Roberta von Meding, recently revealed that she didn’t feel comfortable in it.

Having given birth to two children and suffered through pre eclampsia, oedema and severe diastasis recti, Roberta knows that her body is capable of enduring substantial trauma, but the aftermath of this has understandably left the 32-year-old in considerable discomfort.

The nature of diastasis recti means that Roberta’s stomach muscles have separated which ultimately puts excess strain on her neck and back leaving her unable to take part in certain physical activities.

While Roberta reveals she’s ‘the fittest she’s been’ in her life, she explains that she is unable to counteract the effects of the post-birth trauma.

“I still have the appearance of someone who is six or seven months pregnant if I have a big drink of water. My stomach just balloons out and no amount of sit-ups is going to fix it.”

Keen to reverse the effects of the post-birth trauma which includes the development of hernias in her abdomen, Roberta sought the advice of professionals, and ultimately chose to have an abdominoplasty in the Avoca Clinic.

“When I went to the Avoca Clinic for my first consultation, I was a little bit apprehensive, a little bit nervous” Roberta admitted. “But as soon as I walked in I felt very welcome, It almost felt like being in a beauty spa."

“I met my surgeon and he was wonderful. He listened to all my concerns, looked at my tummy and told me I was a perfect candidate for the surgery. He assured me he could sew up the hernias and give me a full muscle repair and tuck. He showed me previous patients’ ‘before and after’ surgery photos and that was very helpful.”

“The consultation lasted about half an hour, and you’re then given a two-week cooling-off period to let you process the information,” Roberta explains.

Using the following fortnight to compile a ‘lengthy list of questions’, Roberta returned for a second consultation with the surgeon. He went through her concerns before the mum-of-two decided to proceed with the surgery.

Roberta admitted that she was ‘a little bit nervous’ in the 30 minutes before her surgery, but felt comforted by the fact that she had all the information she needed in the run-up to the procedure.

In the hours following the surgery, the mum-of-two experienced some pain which was treated with morphine and sleep. The day after the surgery, Roberta said the discomfort had subsided hugely, explaining: “The pain level was a two or three. Nothing unbearable. Just on Difene and Paracetamol.”

Three days after her successful procedure, Roberta was back at home and said she experienced a little chestiness as a result of the anaesthetic and was walking ‘slightly hunched over’ as was to be expected. As the days passed, Roberta found that her sleep was improving and she said she was hugely excited to see the results of her surgery.

Six days post-op, Roberta was ‘feeling good’ and excited to have her second drain removed. Commenting on the removal of the first internal drain, Roberta said: ”The nurse lay me down and it felt like a gentle tugging feeling. It wasn’t actually that sore. It was manageable.”

Returning to the Avoca Clinic to have her dressing done, Roberta said she was thrilled with the results of her surgery.

“It was the first time actually seeing the scar and my new stomach and I’m so pleased. Very, very happy. It didn’t hurt getting the bandages off. Not a huge amount of sensation.” she explained.

Ten days post-op, Roberta said she was feeling ‘a lot more like herself", but admitted that having had her final drain removed, she'd be lying if she said it was a walk in the park.

“But once it was done, it was done,” she stressed. “Like an injection, very fast. A little bit sore, but fine.”

Almost a fortnight after her surgery, Roberta explains that she is still sleeping upright in her bed and urges potential candidates to consider this, but recommends placing pillows at strategic angles to alleviate discomfort.

Now looking to the future, she considered the next steps of her recovery.

“I would imagine I’ll keep wearing my compression stockings which are not that great considering it’s very hot out today with the mini heatwave for the Leaving Cert coming up! I’ll probably be told to keep the binder on for a few weeks as well,” she reasoned.

Roberta will be returning for a final consultation in the coming days, and we'll be sure to update you on her progress!