SIMON O’Hare recalls that his symptoms developed over the course of a week.

Back in December 2015, the Enniskillen man remembers firstly losing some coordination and then suffering several “significant” headaches.

By the end of the week, the father-of-two, then aged only 39 years old, couldn’t really speak and had lost control in his right arm.

Presenting with these stroke-like symptoms at South West Acute Hospital, Mr. O’Hare underwent an emergency CT scan within eight minutes of arriving at the A&E department.

From looking at the images obtained of his brain, the hospital staff were able to see two significant bleeds in the brain but determined that he hadn’t suffered a stroke.

Instead, his condition was subsequently identified as a Cavernoma – an abnormal clustering of blood vessels in the brain that led to the bleeding.

Mr. O’Hare revealed that while an estimated one in 600 people have a Cavernoma, only about one in 400,000 will ever present with symptoms. Most are picked up in routine scans.

Describing himself as “fortunate”, the Fermanagh man said that the bleeding in his brain was close to the surface, which meant that it was operable.

Having since made a full recovery, he admits that he was “remarkably lucky”.

Mr. O’Hare, who was monitored for five days by staff in the Stroke Unit at the SWAH, said he remains “extremely grateful” for the care he received at the local hospital.

He said: “The expertise of all the medical professionals in SWAH that I had contact with, from A&E to occupational health, was exceptional and their knowledge and ability to identify less common incidences and liaise with specialists in the neuroscience departments elsewhere were key in my recovery.”

With just a day to go until a public meeting is held in Enniskillen on Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) proposals to reshape stroke services in Northern Ireland, the 40 year old said he felt “very strongly” about safeguarding the future of the local unit.

Although the HSCB insists that no decisions have been taken on any services, local campaigners fear that the plans will lead to the downgrading or closure of the SWAH’s Stroke Unit.

Mr. O’Hare, who is the Education Authority’s Music Service Fermanagh area coordinator, described any proposals to change the service currently being provided locally as “absolutely bewildering”.

He said: “If something is working so well, why should that be jeopardised by moving it elsewhere?”

Stressing the importance of having a unit in the local area, Mr. O’Hare said: “I have two young children and it was important for them to see that I was OK. If I had been sent to Belfast for treatment, it would have been a lot more stressful for my family.”

Pointing out that SWAH is a teaching hospital, the Enniskillen man said: “Surely it’s essential that student doctors posted to SWAH retain the opportunity to experience a diverse selection of cases, and learn in such a high-performing unit?”

He added: “In the West, those patients who require treatment within that ‘golden hour’ can only be served by a specialist stroke unit in the SWAH. The best performing service in Europe should be celebrated and promoted, not removed and relocated elsewhere.”

An action group, known as Save Our Stroke Services (SOSS), was set up in Enniskillen this summer with the sole purpose of fighting against any threat of closure or reduction of services.

It is calling on Fermanagh and Tyrone people to attend tomorrow's public meeting in large numbers to “send one loud voice” that any attempt to downgrade or remove local services would be opposed.

The meeting is due to take place at the Killyhevlin Hotel in Enniskillen tomorrow (Monday), between 6.30pm and 8.30pm.

Meanwhile, the HSCB’s pre-consultation process on the proposals to reshape stroke services is due to end on Friday, September 15.

Details about the pre-consultation, and how to respond, can be accessed on the HSCB’s website at: