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‘Day by day I’m getting stronger and stronger’, says Ruairi.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

‘Day by day I’m getting stronger and stronger’, says Ruairi. thumbnail RUAIRI O’Neill pictured in full health after winning the county U21 Championship title with Crossmaglen Rangers.

RUAIRI O'Neill, who was struck down with meningitis last Christmas, is hosting a coffee morning to help raise awareness of the life-threatening infection.

Just over a week after helping his beloved Crossmaglen Rangers win the county U21 championship title on December 9, the St Mary's University College student was fighting for his life in the Royal Victoria Hospital and spent four days on life support.

Thankfully, the trainee primary school teacher pulled through and is "slowly but surely" getting stronger and stronger.

Ruairi's meningitis awareness morning will be held in Crossmaglen Rangers' Club Hall on Sunday, September 24, from 9am to 2pm, where Meningitis Research Foundation, Know Yourself Nutrition and Egg Coffee Crossmaglen will all be in attendance.

During the morning Ruairi plans to read out an essay he wrote just two days before contracting meningitis, which focuses on religion, faith development and the support of your family and community.

Speaking to The Newry Democrat about the frightening experience, Ruairi outlined the events that led to his father finding him unresponsive in his bed.

"On Friday, December 16, I came home from my last day [of university] for the year," explained Ruairi.

"I felt tired when I came home so I decided to go to bed and woke up later around 10.30pm, it was the type of sleep that you would know it was a deep one, you have a certain refreshing feeling going through your body after waking up from it. Some say it is one of the early symptoms of meningitis.

"I felt peckish so decided to get food and return to the house, had a bite to eat and went to sleep. I woke up around 12.30pm on the Saturday, went down to the [Crossmaglen Rangers] hall where there was a fundraising function 'Bieber Fever' on." After performing his dance routine Ruairi developed a "shivering feeling" through his body and decided to drive home.

After eventually going to sleep he woke up three hours later, again feeling hungry, but began to vomit and having diarrhoea.

Ruairi's mother Gabrielle, who is a nurse, gave him two paracetamol and he went back to bed.

However, his father Kevin checked on him shortly after 2am and found Ruairi lying unresponsive in his bed, soaking of sweat and covered with black spots - a sure sign of bacterial meningitis.

"My mother took the decision to bundle me into the car and asked the out of hours doctor to direct an ambulance onto the main Newry Road to Crossmaglen," said Ruairi.

"We met the ambulance at Aughanduff Chapel, which is approximately five minutes from Mullaghbawn and another 30 minutes from Newry and for the next 40 minutes the quick acting of the two paramedics, Ian McDowell and Mark McKitrick, undoubtedly saved my life.

"They administered the first dose of benzyl penicillin, intravenous fluids and oxygen." Ruairi was then transported to Daisy Hill Hospital where his condition continued to deteriorate before being transferred to The Royal in Belfast.

After going to sleep on the Saturday night Ruairi didn't wake up until the following Wednesday and said he was totally "oblivious" as to what had happened.

"The suddenness of contracting bacterial meningitis was frightening and such a shock to my parents, sisters and immediate family but also to the whole parish of Crossmaglen, my team mates and University," continued Ruairi.

"I and my family never thought that this could happen to us. I was a fit healthy young man just entering University, being asked to step up and join the Crossmaglen Senior team, life was good when I was struck down. Nevertheless, I made it, thankfully.

"I have been in and out of hospital with blood tests etc, making sure that everything is in working order but I am slowly but surely, day by day, getting stronger and stronger." Ruairi highlighted his fitness as a huge factor in his ability to pull through those crucial first days in The Royal and is also using his awareness morning to promote healthy eating and well-being.

He also wished to take the opportunity to extend a special thank you to his family, the paramedics, The Royal's nursing staff, Sister Siobhan and all of her caring staff in the Male Medical ward in Daisy Hill Hospital, the staff and students at St Mary's University College, Fr Damien Quigley, the Priests of Upper and Lower Creggan Parishes, the Upper Creggan Lourdes Committee, the Health Development Team in the South Eastern Trust, Dr Margaret and Pat Fee and Crossmaglen Rangers

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