Newport County World Heart Day

Newport County AFC are proud to be supporting World Heart Day by raising awareness of heart health and healthier lifestyles.

World Heart Day is a global campaign during which individuals, families, communities, and governments around the world participate in activities to take charge of their heart health and that of others.

The day - which is celebrated every year on 29th September - aims to drive action to educate people that by controlling risk factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity, at least 80% of premature deaths from heart disease and stroke could be avoided.

Over the last two seasons, the club were saddened to announce that defenders Fraser Franks and Mark O’Brien were forced to call time on their playing careers due to heart conditions.

That is why, as a football club, we want to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in the world.

The Exiles will wear British Heart Foundation t-shirts prior to kick-off at the University of Bolton Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

"I think it's very important that the club support World Heart Day," said Great Escape hero O'Brien.

"Every year, you see more people suffer with heart issues, both in and out of football. Football has such a big platform, so people who are going through struggles can relate to a professional footballer who may be experiencing the same issues.

"It could give them hope that they can get through things just as well as a professional player. If they see that a professional is achieving their goals, it could give them the lift that they need to achieve their goals.

"This day means a lot because, since I was 16, I've had heart problems. I think that this day raises awareness and shows that professional players who have high fitness levels, can be affected by heart problems. It can happen to anyone. I've come across that twice by going through open-heart surgery twice. There is a lot more awareness of people who are suffering with heart issues now."

O'Brien went through surgery for the first time when he was a teenager, but that didn't stop County's Great Escape hero from pursuing his dream of playing football.

The former defender, who called time on his career in June earlier this year before undergoing heart surgery for the second time, is continuing his rehabilitation.

And now he feels that speaking about his experiences can help others.

"It's important that people like myself, and other footballers who have experienced heart problems, speak about it," he added.

"I've been unlucky enough to experience it but I find that speaking about it more, and getting my story out there, has put me in contact with other people that have experienced the same thing. It makes you feel like you're not on your own

"My rehabilitation has gone fairly well. I've had my ups and downs at times, and I'm starting from scratch in terms of fitness. I knew that things were going to be physically different, but it's also been very difficult mentally too. I'm more aware of things and I understand the severity of the operation. I've been seeking a lot more support to help me mentally too."

He remained in close contact with his Exiles team-mates and manager Michael Flynn during the difficult period and has continued to receive support from the club on his road to recovery.

"The club have been brilliant through this difficult time," he said.

"They have accepted me back in with open arms and I've been doing commentary on iFollow Exiles which keeps me busy. Is still get to watch football and go into the training to be part of something which got taken away from me. 

"Our club doctor Daniel Vaughan has been amazing through this period. If I have any concerns, I can pick up the phone and get in touch with him. He's there on matchdays, so I can sit down to speak to him about things. I've been lucky enough to have someone like him who's helped me along the way and gives me reassurance, which I sometimes doubt myself over. I can't speak highly enough of him."