My name is Rhys, a first time dad blogging about my adventures and experiences of being a parent. [email protected]

Mark O’Brien urges Welsh runners to join race for heart condition cures at Cardiff Half

BHF Mascot Hearty at Cardiff Half March 2022

29-year-old former Newport County AFC Captain Mark O’Brien, who was forced to retire due to a heart condition in June 2020, is calling on anyone considering taking part in October’s Cardiff Half Marathon to support the British Heart Foundation.

General entries for the iconic event in the capital on 2nd October have sold out, so the only way to participate is by supporting an official charity partner.

Mark first became aware of his heart condition aged just 16, when a routine scan for academy players at Derby County revealed a heart value problem. Following a heart valve replacement operation in 2009, Mark enjoyed a successful career at Derby and Luton Town before joining Newport County in 2017, where he became Captain until his early retirement, due to the need for further surgery.

Since recovering from his second heart procedure, Mark’s returned to Rodney Parade, which he says feels like a home from home, in a player support role for team-mates.

Mark O’Brien recovering after heart surgery in 2020

Mark said: “My football career being cut-short because of my heart condition was challenging, and I’ve gone through some tough times, mentally as well as physically. There have been dark days, as I’ve had to come to terms with my life after being a professional football career.

“I had to do a lot of thinking about who I am, if I’m not a footballer. And that’s been harder for me than overcoming the physical challenges of my heart surgery. The anxiety about my health and living with a heart condition, it’s all tough, but it’s made me stronger as a person, and that’s why I’m determined to do all I can to support people, share my story and hopefully help other people deal with their challenges too.”

Mark experienced panic attacks and anxiety as he recovered from his second surgery and encourages anyone struggling with their physical or mental health to reach-out for support.

The British Heart Foundation has a dedicated Heart Helpline staffed by qualified cardiac nurses who answer queries from people living with heart conditions and concerned friends and family. The team provides specialist information and support to those living with and caring for those with heart and circulatory conditions, as well as signposting to other additional support networks.

In Wales 340,000 people are living with heart and circulatory conditions. Mark is encouraging anyone looking for a challenge where they can make a real difference to support the lifesaving research into cures and treatments to sign up for the Cardiff half and fundraise for the BHF.

Mark said: “It’s amazing to think that in Welsh universities, and across the UK, pioneering BHF-funded researchers are working on the treatments and cures of the future, for heart conditions that affect every community. None if this is possible without the support of the public, and I can’t wait to cheer on everyone who’s taking part in the brilliant Cardiff Half for the BHF.”

BHF area fundraising manager for Wales and Northern Ireland, Nikki James, said: “We are so grateful that Mark is supporting our fabulous fundraisers at October’s Cardiff Half. He’s living proof of the lifesaving power of research into treating heart conditions and is a fantastic example of someone who’s overcoming the challenges he’s faced, with an inspirational outlook, and a determination to help others.”