Web brings thalidomide couple together

A TRANSATLANTIC romance blossomed when two thalidomide survivors began to share their life experiences over the internet.

Newry-born Leigh Loy was living in Texas with her children, Karl, 16, and Aisling, who turns 15 today, when she posted a message on the internet to link up with other thalidomide survivors.

Eugene Gath, who is a lecturer at the University of Limerick, responded and as the messages continued, Eugene decided to travel to Texas and meet Leigh, who had been divorced for seven years.

They met in May 2003 and by August had become engaged, marrying in a church ceremony in Texas in May 2004.

They returned to Ireland and had a big wedding party in Portumna later that year.

Leigh, who was working at the University of Texas, said: “We decided that the best for us as a family would be to move to Ireland, because of Eugene’s work and we came to Pallaskenry, where we now live.”

Using wheelchairs, the couple move around in tandem.

Leigh said: “My wheelchair has a power drive and I go in front of Eugene in his wheelchair and he grabs hold of the back of my wheelchair and I can tow him along,” said Leigh.

Since moving to Co Limerick, Leigh has become very involved in helping run the village youth club and also spends one day a week doing voluntary work with Enable Ireland.

Her schedule is all the more hectic, poring over legal text books.

She said: “I am completing a masters degree course in Criminal Justice at UCC, which keeps me very busy. We are very happy and love life here in Pallaskenry.”

Leigh has finished work on an autobiography, titled Don’t Tell Me I Can’t, which will be launched shortly.

Leigh added: “I have got a publisher and we hope to launch the book here and I have asked Dan Neville to do the launch.”



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