It’s a scary thought to think that it only took one bite from a Tick to change my life forever.
“Six years ago I didn’t know that my life was about to turn upside down forever. I had just moved to Rathcoffey from Kilcock so I was very busy. I decided to take a break from unpacking and went out for a bike ride with my son Scott. I felt fine apart from feeling very tired but I just put it down to the stress of moving. We stopped at Donadea Forest entrance and sat on the wall to take a break. Scott was looking at me saying I was a funny colour. I just laughed at him. When we got home I was starting to feel worse. By then I had a bad headache, was feeling so tired and had a pins and needles feeling all up along my left side. We put it down to stress and I headed to bed early.
When I woke the next morning I immediately shouted for Scott, I thought I was having a stroke because the left side of my face didn’t feel right. I went to Connolly hospital and they said is was a virus and to go home and rest. Two weeks went by and by now I lost all feeling in my left leg and I continued to have pins and needles from my hip upwards.
I was taken back into hospital and this time I was kept. Doctors tested me for so many things. I had my first lumbar puncture done as they thought it was MS but they later found out it wasn’t. I was sent home. Still unwell.
I was told I was on a waiting list to see a neurologist ( 6 years on and I’m still waiting for that appointment). My family took me to a private neurologist and after asking about my lifestyle before been sick, he looked at my history and had a look at all my tests. It was this doctor that told me to get tested for Lyme Disease.
I got tested by my GP and three weeks later, just before Christmas, I was told my test for Lyme Disease came back as a strong positive and that I would have to have a second lumbar puncture.
After Christmas I attended St James Hospital, where any treatment I received, failed to work. I was getting worse and there was nothing I could do about it. I then found my Lyme Disease doctor in The Mater Private. Every 4-5 weeks I would replace with pain and muscle spasms so bad it was bruising my body all over.
Following treatment to my new doctor for seven months he gave me the advice to look into treatment abroad. By now I had so many health problems like hearing loss in both ears, fatigue, breathing problems, stomach problems, just to name a few. By this stage I was depending on leg braces on both my legs due to the loss of feeling on my left leg.
With help of everyone and the amazing community of Kilcock I was able to attend the St Georg Kilinic in Germany for two weeks of intensive treatment. It was so hard, to a point where I begged my mam to bring me home. My mam (Mary O’Brien) wasn’t gonna let me give up, she really was my rock.
After my treatment I was doing so well until two weeks ago. I had a very bad relapse and I ended up in Connolly Hospital once again. I was placed on pain medication (morphine) and once they saw the medication working they sent me home.
I’m in pain every day but with the right pain medication I can get it under control and then manage it. With my back been a big problem now, I have to use a wheelchair but my manual one isn’t going to work for me.
On top of everything now I’m not able to stand for long or walk far. So now I’m fighting to get help to get a power wheelchair. Life with Lyme Disease is so hard and I’ve lost so much because of it. On the bright side its shown me how to be stronger and to never give up. I’m alive, I’m here and get to be with my son, family and friends.
It’s a scary thought to think that it only took one bite from a Tick to change my life forever”
During this COVID Lockdown I have appreciated the great things we have around us. Things like the Royal Canal and the Greenway, Maynooth College South Campus, Connolly’s Folly, Rathcoffey Castle, Dollanstown Stud, the views from Ovidstown Hill, sunsets from Cappagh Hill and many more. At the same time, I cannot wait to get back travelling around the country and there are hundreds of places I still want to visit
“When I was younger, we used to spend weekends and holidays in Mayo. Dad is from South Mayo, where you can see the Partry Mountains and Croagh Patrick as well as a couple of lakes. My Mam is from North Mayo at the bottom of Nephin and looking back towards the Nephin Beg Mountain Range. I used to hate leaving the west to go back home because I had some sort of connection with the scenery.
As the years went on myself and one of my best friends would be always sending each other photos of different places on WhatsApp as we both have an interest in scenery. The odd day we would have ventured off to different places.
The Summer of 2017 was the year I got properly into scenic photography. Myself and my girlfriend Lorna said we would go down and visit my Granny in Mayo. I said I would show her some of the Mayo Coastline and we basically did a big tour from Louisburgh to Achill Island, found out about the Wild Atlantic Way and I took a serious number of photos.
Poor Lorna was getting impatient and couldn’t understand why I would keep stopping the car taking photographs as she wouldn’t have been really into scenery. I think I’ve transformed her and her photo skills have improved dramatically since.
I would get a buzz in life when we won Gaelic football matches with the club or if I was watching Liverpool or Kildare win. But that summer I discovered a new buzz. Coming across places in Ireland, not known to many, but which are some of the most magnificent places on the Island. Some of those places you would have all to yourself. There was something about it that would make my adrenaline pump.
The obsession more or less took off from then. Up to now I’ve travelled the Wild Atlantic Way from Ardara in Co. Donegal all the way down to Kenmare in Co. Kerry, and also another chunk from Baltimore to Kinsale in Co. Cork. I have also travelled around to most counties and last summer I did Inishbofin off the coast of Galway with Marcus Duke and Cormac Daly.
All of this has made me realise there is so much places to see in this country that we would have never heard off. Some of them are absolutely spectacular. I have come across hidden waterfalls in caves, waterfalls that you think you would only see in the Amazon, beaches that have no one on them but wouldn’t look out of place in the Maldives, and windmills like you would see in the Netherlands.
Some days I will just decide to set the alarm early, head off in the car, and Google attractions in the county or area I’m heading to. It’s a great way to shut yourself off from the world.
Due to me clogging up my own Instagram stories, and with a bit of encouragement from a few friends, I decided to bite the bullet and set up an Instagram page displaying photographs of the different places I have travelled. I called it The Irish Galaxy as I take most of my photos on a Samsung Galaxy phone. I post the pictures up with a bit of a background behind each photo to make it interesting for people who want to visit there. I try to post 2 or 3 photos a week.
I also take Instagram stories of everywhere I visit and put them into a highlight with the County it is in. I am delighted with the way the page has been received by everyone and it takes my mind off teaching or football during the year.
Last Christmas I got a camera as a present and I’m hoping to upskill myself and increase the quality of photographs I take in the future.
During this COVID Lockdown I have appreciated the great things we have around us. Things like the Royal Canal and the Greenway, Maynooth College South Campus, Connolly’s Folly, Rathcoffey Castle, Dollanstown Stud, the views from Ovidstown Hill, sunsets from Cappagh Hill and many more. At the same time, I cannot wait to get back travelling around the country and there are hundreds of places I still want to visit.
If you’re looking for a place to travel to in the local area or around the country, check out my travel page and you might get a few ideas” – Mark Durkan
“Live life to the fullest and focus on the positive. Be happy”
“23rd july 1998, just four days after my 19th birthday, it was just another Thursday at work as an apprentice carpenter, or so I thought. Little did I know, in the blink of an eye, my life would be turned upside down and changed forever.
Shortly after lunchtime, as I was working on a roof of a two story house on a building site in Leixlip, the scaffolding gave way from underneath me and I fell, about 24ft.
I’ll never forget trying to grab scaffolding bars mid fall trying to save myself or break my fall, but unlike you see in the movies it’s near impossible. I hit the ground with tremendous force. Unfortunately I landed on a scaffolding plank on its side, I’ll never forget the sound of hearing my back snap and the pain that followed.
Immediately I knew I was in Serious trouble. My legs went all pins and needles and I couldn’t move them. It seemed like an age waiting on the emergency services to arrive, but it probably only took about half an hour. I was rushed straight to the Mater hospital where I underwent a 5 hour operation.
The next day, surrounded by very upset and concerned family members and my girlfriend Rachel, a doctor explained to me that I had sustained a double fractured broken back but more importantly inoperable damage had been done to my spinal cord. I was paralysed from the waist down and I might never walk again.
During the next two weeks in the Mater spinal ward, I was bed bound, you have all day for things to play on your mind, maybe I was in denial but paralysis long term never really crossed my mind. I have always been a very positive guy, I just presumed I was going to make a full recovery and be back on my feet in no time. A specialist from The National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) came to assess me and it was decided that I would be going there in a couple weeks to learn to be independant again.
I must admit before being a patient in the NRH I never even knew it existed, and wow what an amazing place it was. I was surrounded by stroke patients, amputees, paraplegics, quadriplegics, tetraplegics(neck down) and brain injuries….there’s no feeling sorry for yourself there. There is always someone much worse off than you. All the staff from nurses, doctors, physiotherapists and occupational therapists do the most amazing job with one goal in mind, to get the patient back to being as independant and healthy as possible, they are inspirational.
I was still very sick when I arrived at the NRH, I just couldn’t stop vomiting, it was like my body just couldn’t adapt to being paralysed. Kildare won the Leinster final that week and Davey Dalton (Kilcock legend) brought a few of the players in to see me. That visit gave me great encouragement and belief, I stopped getting sick that day and was finally on the road to recovery.
Being put into a wheelchair for the first time, that was very traumatic. It was a strange and scary feeling, I think myself Rachel and the whole family cried for most of that day. A family therapist came to see us and I have to say it was one of the toughest days of my life. I never looked back from that day on, I am a very positive person, I was ready to move forward, that was my only “bad” day.
After I had my back brace removed I worked very hard, learning how to dress myself again, to go to the toilet, building up strength in the physio department each day so that I could push about in the wheelchair. I was determined to make the best of my situation. I even learned how to drive. Spinal Injuries Ireland (SII) set up a driving programme for patients, I signed up and on my first lesson I was out on the busy dublin roads, I nearly had a heart attack.
I had great fun with all the nurses, doctors and staff each day, they filled my days with fun divilment and laughter, you wouldn’t feel like you were in a hospital at all. I got to meet some of the most amazing people, patients who were going through the exact same journey as me. The bonds that you make in hospital are very special, you are there for each other, you become almost family. I guess it’s a bit like War Vets, you have mutual respect for one another and maybe only people who have lived through such a life altering experience can truly understand the other. I’m glad to say I’m still in contact with a few of these very dear friends.
Apart from the amazing support I received during this time from Rachel and my family, I also was blessed with a super network of friends and a very warm community spirit of my home town Kilcock. Nobody once treated me any differently when I returned home in a wheelchair, this made my transition so much easier to just move on with my life and not dwell on the past.
Shortly after my release from NRH myself and Rachel went travelling for a few months,we saw the world, places like Australia and New Zealand, it was a truly amazing experience. Then we settled down, built a house and got married. We have been truly blessed with three amazing kids. I am a stay at home dad and I have to say I love it. It’s the most rewarding job in the world. My kids are everything to me.
Alright I never got power or feeling back in my legs, but I did recover to have a powerful life.
Live life to the fullest and focus on the positive. Be happy” – Lester Cassidy.
“Today is world IBD Day (Inflammatory Bowel Disease/Crohns Disease and Ulcerative Colitis) I have been suffering with Crohns Disease since 2011. I’ve had countless blood transfusions, iron infusions and have been getting fed through TPN. It was a very difficult journey. It started with severe stomach pain, before throwing up everything I ate. I had bleeding and was unable to get up out of bed. I lost nearly 6 stone which was over half my body weight.
When I visited my GP he assumed I had a eating disorder, as did many other people that I met. I went to A&E countless times until they finally did a colonoscopy and it was determined it was Crohns Disease. After this I was in hospital for months, getting fed through TPN, on countless medications until they had no choice to remove half my bowel because I wasn’t improving.
I got on great after this, maybe just a few admissiosn until 2019, when my world was turned upside down. It was back with a vengeance. I have now severe complicated Crohns. I have contracted C diff while I was in hospital which was agonizing, I lost a lot of weight again and had to get fed through TPN yet again. I have 2 fistulas which may need surgery and I’m on 3 immunosuppressants, one which includes a chemotherapy drug. For that one I go to hospital for 2 hours every 4 weeks for an infusion.
I’ve had 8 admissions since June 2019 and I am still flaring since then. I really hope they find a cure, this can be devastating on your life. I’ve been out of work since then and I have only recently been able to start going for walks because I lost so much muscle, after been once confined to bed”