A MASS health screening of students and staff at a West Limerick secondary school is to take place later this month, as part of a major internet campaign to tackle sudden adult death syndrome.
The two-day screening exercise at Desmond College, Newcastle West comes on foot of an online awareness campaign by 16-year-old Kieran Herlihy, whose older sister Niamh died suddenly at the age of 20 in 2011.
In recent months Kieran and some fellow transition year students at Desmond College began a Facebook campaign calling for free nationwide screening for sudden adult death syndrome, which also claimed the life of 15-year-old Darra O’Donovan from Monagea in 2011, who also attended the Gortboy school.
The campaign has now attracted a staggering 26,700 ‘likes’ from members of the public, and Kieran said that the groundswell of support they have received inspired them to organise the school screening.
“We’re delighted with all the people who’ve signed up. We’ve a company coming up to school from Cork, and for €30 all the students can get full screening”.
Desmond College principal Vourneen Gavin-Barry said that the entire school is “so proud” of Kieran and the rest of the students’ efforts.
“It’s obviously a very personal thing for him, and also for us as a school, because we lost one of our students as well.
“They’ve been doing so much work with the Facebook page, and raising awareness. They’ve been writing letters to local councillors and TDs. They’ve decided it would be a great idea to bring people into the school and put it into practice.
“They were originally just planning to have it on one day, but there’s been such a huge response they’ve made it a two-day, and possibly even a three-day thing”.
Students and staff have all been invited to take part in the health checks, which will begin on Thursday, February 28. The screening will be performed by a specialist medical firm from Cork, and each student’s test results will be sent directly to their GP afterwards.
Kieran said that he and the rest of the transition year group are lobbying to meet with the Minister for Health and HSE officials in the coming months to present their case. Local Fine Gael TD Patrick O’Donovan is also planning to visit the school to speak with the students directly, he added.
Niamh Herlihy’s death in April 2011 was met with an outpouring of grief in her native parish, and over 6,000 people attended her removal on Easter weekend. In December of that year Darra O’Donovan from Gardenfield, Monagea also died suddenly. A talented hurler, he was a member of the Limerick under-15 hurling panel and was also a student at Desmond College.