Trad and folk performers unite for heart disease awareness campaign

80% of heart-attack deaths are preventable, says musician who is lucky to have survived

A group of folk and traditional musicians are supporting a new campaign to increase awareness of the signs and symptoms of heart disease.

The campaign called Counter Attack, which starts on February 14th – St Valentine's Day – has videos of Irish musicians including Brian Kennedy, Eleanor Shanley, John Spillane, Susan O'Neill, Liam Ó Maonlaí and Clare Sands. The YouTube Counter Attack playlist also includes medical experts, speaking clearly and frankly about heart disease.

"A staggering 80 per cent of the deaths from heart attacks are preventable," says Frankie Lane, the musician, producer and director behind the campaign.

Lane survived a heart attack six years ago and counts himself one of the lucky ones. “I was dead for three minutes, but I came to on the third attempt of CPR and defibrillation. I now know that the chances of survival outside a hospital are less than 10 per cent.”


'I didn't want to cause alarm and bother people in the middle of the night, but my wife Anita called 999. I didn't know I was having a heart attack'

Lane recalls how after a gig, he woke up feeling really sick and disabled at 4am but thought that he’d eaten something that didn’t agree with him. “I didn’t want to cause alarm and bother people in the middle of the night, but my wife Anita called 999. I didn’t know I was having a heart attack. Even when I got to hospital, I was in denial because I’m athletic and was fit from cycling.”

Lane had emergency surgery during which a stent “the size of a guitar string” was put in his main artery. The paramedic who brought him to hospital, came to see him in the ward a week later, saying: “I wanted to see that you were alive, because I lost six other people [from heart attacks] since we brought you in.”

Jadzia Kaminska opted to join the campaign following the death of her husband, musician Dave Donohoe, from a heart attack in June, 2021. "It's all very raw still, but when Frankie told me about his idea, I said I'm with you on this – whatever it takes to prevent the pain [of people dying unnecessarily from heart attacks\]."

Valiantly, she recounts her husband’s last hours in the hope that the Counter Attack campaign will save other lives. “Dave went to work on Monday morning and came home at 10.30am not feeling well. He phoned me and I came straight home, but his doctor told him to get an ambulance to Kilkenny Hospital. But when they realised he had a severe heart attack, the ambulance was re-directed to Waterford Hospital. They tried to get a stent in but his artery was so badly blocked, they needed to stabilise him first. By 12 noon the next day, he was gone.”

Indigestion medication

Kaminska explains how Donohoe – who was 53 when he died – had regularly taken indigestion medication, not realising that persistent indigestion can be a symptom of heart disease. “I would like pharmacists to tell people who regularly buy indigestion tablets that they should go see their GP,” she says.

Kildare GP Dr Michael Collins says, "Cardiac chest pain can be mistaken for heartburn or acid indigestion, so if you've any cardiac risk factors whatsoever, it's always better to err on the side of caution and get it checked out."

Collins adds: “Heart attacks typically present with [chest] tightness but sometimes it can be a vague central chest discomfort and sensation. Vomiting, sweating, dizziness and terrible fatigue are other symptoms.”

Kaminska believe that people are less aware of symptoms of heart disease and aren't taking personal responsibility to get themselves checked out. "We have lots of consciousness about cervical, breast and prostate cancer, but heart disease is getting lost somewhere. I think awareness around heart disease is low in Ireland. "

Lane says that looking back now, he was also ignoring persistent heartburn, unaware that it was an early sign of heart disease. “There are a lot of invisible symptoms of heart disease. An angiogram is a simple procedure [which shows blocked or narrowed blood vessels in the heart] and if I had got one a year earlier, my blocked artery would have been seen.”

High blood pressure is another major risk factor for heart attacks and stroke, and while more than 50 per cent of people over 45 have high blood pressure, many don’t know it or aren’t being treated for it.

In one of the Counter Attack videos, Laois GP Dr Sumi Dunne reminds us that women are 50 per cent more likely to have a missed diagnosis for heart disease and heart attack than men. "After the menopause, women are at an increased risk of heart disease because previously, oestrogen protected the arteries by preventing a build-up of plaque," she explains.

Angina which is often experienced as tightness or pain in the chest in men, can also be experienced as nausea, abdominal pain or a stabbing pain instead of chest pressure in women. The sudden onset of persistent pain in the arms, neck, jaw, shoulder or back could also be a sign of a heart attack and is a medical emergency if the pain doesn’t go away within a few minutes.


Kaminska says that her husband Dave suffered from breathlessness the week before he died. “He would sit on the couch and it would dissipate but [we now know that] he might have had angina.”

'When you're healthy, you don't think that you might die. But we want to plant the seed in people's minds to find out if any symptoms they have are due to a heart problem

Lane says that many men are so fearful of having heart problems that it prevents them from getting checked out. “I’ve many friends who died of heart attacks. When you’re healthy, you don’t think that you might die. But we want to plant the seed in people’s minds to go and find out if any symptoms they have are due to a heart problem.”

Kaminska adds, “I’d like to see a national conversation on heart disease and for people to take ownership of their own health. We maintain our cars regularly but we don’t do it for our bodies. We hear about people getting checks when they turn 50, but I think these checks should start at 40.”

In the music videos that will be released each day from February 14th for a week as part of the Counter Attack campaign to raise awareness of the warning symptoms of heart attacks, musicians each share one fact that they didn’t know about heart disease. And to end on a lighter note, did you know that laughter is good for the heart because it increases blood flow by up to 20 per cent?