Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Delight as young GAA star wins meningitis battle

Christmas wishes were answered for the O’Neill family when their son, Crossmaglen Rangers star Ruairi O’Neill, successfully overcame his battle against a life threatening strain of meningitis.

The prayers of the youngster’s family and the entire community were realised when the eighteen year old regained consciousness on December 21st, after being struck down with the deadly illness four days before.  Discharged from hospital on Christmas Day, the teenager continues to recuperate at home.  His relieved family say the prayers and support of the GAA community throughout the country, St. Mary’s University College in Belfast and the entire south Armagh community have helped to carry them through their terrifying ordeal.

Social media was awash with well wishes and prayers for the young footballer as he lay in a coma in the Royal Victoria Hospital and GAA clubs across the country remembered Ruairi, with nightly vigils held to pray for his recovery.

Conveying his gratitude to everyone who supported them throughout his son’s illness, Ruairi’s relieved dad Kevin also had high praise for the medical staff in Daisy Hill Hospital and the Royal Victoria who attended to the teenager and, in particular, the ambulance crew who he says “saved Ruairi’s life en route to hospital”.

Recalling the night his son took ill, Kevin told The Examiner how he and his wife Gabrielle sprung into action after checking on Ruairi when they returned from a night out.

“He had been sick during the day and I have often thought that if we had not been out that night, we would never have checked on him. When I touched him it was like touching a kettle so we knew immediately something was very wrong,” he said.

The quick thinking parents took Ruairi in their car to meet the ambulance en route and, according to Kevin, if the ambulance had not met them at Aughanduff, the 18 year old would never have made the journey to Daisy Hill.

“The ambulance crew worked on Ruairi for half an hour.  If we had waited in Crossmaglen, I don’t think he would have made it.  The staff at the Royal said the first administration of treatment by the ambulance service stemmed the growth of the meningitis and effectively saved his life.”

Describing all the medical staff involved in Ruairi’s treatment as “angels”, a grateful Kevin went on to extend his heartfelt thanks to the community who rallied to support them.

“There really are no words to describe what the community did for us,” he said.

“My own club have been fantastic and all of the clubs throughout the country rallied to support us all.  Jerseys were sent from all over the world and there was a constant flow of well wishes, prayers and messages of support from the GAA community and people throughout south Armagh and beyond.

“The outpouring of love and support has been truly unbelievable.

“The messages were like therapy for us.  Without them we would have endured a very long and lonely wait. It’s amazing how much the messages meant to us and how much strength they gave us.

“Ruairi’s Crossmaglen Rangers team mates have also been so good to us and his sisters, Tara and Caoimhe.

“St. Mary’s College in Belfast, where Ruari is training to be a teacher, could not have done enough for us and in particular one of his lecturers, Paddy Tally, took time out to visit Ruairi several times,” added Kevin.

“There can be awful consequences to this illness so we feel Ruairi has been very lucky to come out of this virtually unscathed,” he continued.

“He’s getting stronger day by day, getting well looked after and well fed.  I’d say Mickey Smith’s steak is going to be instrumental in his recovery!” joked Kevin, who reiterated his sincerest thanks to everyone who supported the O’Neill family in any way during their recent ordeal.

“It’s at times like these you realise how lucky you are to be part of such an amazing extended family as the GAA community, we thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts.”