A teenager paralysed from the neck down in a cycling accident was delighted when Conor McGregor threw his weight behind his campaign to help healthcare workers battling at the frontline of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ian O’Connell from Killarney, Co Kerry, who is currently studying for his Leaving Certificate, was keen to assist in the current crisis any way he could. “While we are all going through these unprecedented times, I wanted to help,” said Ian.
“If I was up and walking the first thing I would do would be to try and help elderly neighbours.”
Ian resolved to support the staff he met while undergoing medical treatment himself at the intensive care unit (ICU) at University Hospital Kerry and set up a GoFundMe account for the Tralee-based unit on Monday.
Within days, Ian’s fundraiser grew to multiple times its original of €1,000 target and a surprise donation from Notorious on Thursday night made a dramatic difference to the bottom line. “I just sent Conor a text asking if he could share the link to the GoFundMe page. Within minutes he had donated €10,000. I was could barely talk when I rang him to thank him!” Ian told the Irish Examiner.
Ian and the professional mixed martial artist are mutual fans. In 2017 Ian was rushed to the ICU in Tralee after falling off his bicycle while out cycling. His injuries were life-changing and resulted in his being paralyzed from the neck down. “I spent 10 nights in the ICU undergoing medical treatment and recovering from an injury that was going to change my whole life at just the age of 16,” he said.
The following year, after appearing on The Late Late Show, Ian’s positive attitude had a nation spellbound – including Conor McGregor. “I got to meet Conor the day after the show – I was speechless,” said Ian.
And the young Killarney man also describes the ICU staff in Tralee as his “heroes”.
Last October, the teenager was rushed to the unit for a second time. “I had gone into cardiac arrest due to a clot in my lung and I was in the ICU for seven nights this time,” he said.
“If it wasn't for the professionalism of the nurses in ICU things could have been a lot worse. And I am forever grateful for the care they gave me. The care and treatment I received from all the nurses and doctors in ICU was unbelievable and they are a credit to themselves in the way they treat patients.”
Ian knows at first-hand how crucial staff are to the whole family and not just the patient in times of crisis. “Not only for me, but for my mom and dad they put us all at ease. They were so professional getting everything done and keeping us calm,” he said.
“Hopefully the money raised will go into something beneficial for the unit and will help them out in some way or another,” he said. “If you can spare some money to add to the fund it would mean so much, even the smallest donation would make a difference, it all adds up. Thank you so much. Stay safe and stay at home.
“Thank you to all the nurses working endlessly these days to treat people with Covid-19. You are the real heroes.”
You can follow Ian on Instagram at @ianoconnell321, and to support Ian’s fundraiser go to its GoFundMe page.