I was born in Limerick in 1977 and grew up in the Rossbrien area with three older sisters and two younger twin brothers.
In 1999, when I was 22 years old I had visited my friend in Nottingham a few times and began to really love the historical cultural city. I decided to interview for a job there and within six days I had upped sticks and moved. I started working as an assistant Quantity Surveyor and worked for four different companies, progressing to senior Quantity Surveyor with a staff of five. It was a job I dearly loved.
I loved the city of Nottingham; it provided me with a great life, both work and play. I bought my first house here in 2005, a listed four storey Georgian House and I restored in to its former glory. This became my home right up until my attack, and I still own it.
One fateful night in July 2009, when I was only 32 years old, my life though was turned upside down and changed forever. I had been out socialising in Nottingham and been to a club, as we normally would. A guy tried to befriend the group that I was in and when they were heading back to my house, this guy asked if he could join us. At the request of one of the girl’s, I said no. At this point this guy pulled me and punched me hard in the face. I fell and hit the right side of my head.
I lost consciousness for two minutes and an ambulance was called. The paramedics arrived, but I came too and insisted I felt ok, I signed a waiver to say I was ok and that’s the biggest mistake I could have made. I vomited during the night but nobody realised just how sick I was. All through the night my brain was bleeding, and the pressure that made built up so much that it further compounded my injuries. By noon the next day, I was unconscious. An ambulance was called and I was taken to Queen’s University Hospital (QUH) in Nottingham. Doctors found I had suffered bruising and bleeding in the brain and a fractured skull resulting from the fall.
I remained in a coma for a few months. All my family were sent for and they travelled over and back for months to be by my bedside. For about a month after coming out of the coma, I couldn’t speak; I also discovered at this time that I had become blind. I began responding first by moving my fingers, then toes; and then my eyes would flicker. As a result of the assault I suffered left sided hemiplegia and hemianasthesia; meaning I have reduced mobility and use of the left hand side of my body and I am confined to a wheelchair.
It’s frightening the damage you can cause to another person, the way you can blow their lives apart, its massive really. Through one reckless act, one moment of craziness, it’s just not worth it, no way.
After being released from Lindon Lodge in Nottingham after a long period of rehabilitation, my family got me a place close to home in Bruree, in Co Limerick. I spent a while there but it was felt that the facility did not meet my rehabilitation needs. My family looked for alternatives and in 2011 I joined Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, a neuro-rehabilitation residential service with 3 other clients in Clarecastle, Co. Clare. I still reside here, and it is a place that very much meets my social, recreational and educational needs along with my continued rehabilitation work.
In 2012, my Family and friends raised the €40,000 needed to fly me to China for stem cell treatment. I feel this has given me some benefits in my rehabilitation goals and I will continue to look at alternative treatments in the future.
It has been six years since I acquired my brain injury and it’s definitely been a challenging time. However I am very determined and today I attend Headway three times a week and have completed the vocational programme there. I give talks to schools, community groups and other interested parties about my story to educate about the dangers of what can happen on a night out. I go to the gym, swimming and partake in physio with the goal of trying to improve my walk. I can walk with a tripod around my home with the guidance of staff but I hope to become more independent in this in the future.
I am extremely lucky with my support network. My parents are very supportive and have built an extension to their home to allow me to spend time there. My sisters and brothers are a great support and provide me with a social outlet. I receive great neuro-rehabilitation through the day service of Headway and especially from Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, where I truly feel at home in Clarecastle.
I was privileged to receive the Pride of Ireland Award in the summer of 2014. I was honoured with 12 other great Irish people who achieved so much in their lives also. I will continue to work extremely hard so that I become as independent as possible in the future. This is a daily battle for me but one I’m definitely up for.
If you take anything from my story think how quick a punch changed my life forever and how simply that could happen. A moment of madness, it happened in seconds and is lasting a lifetime, remember that.