After waking up from a month-long induced coma, Joanne McMahon promised doctors she would spearhead a fundraiser for the burns unit at St James’s Hospital, Dublin.
Ms McMahon said she was “delighted” to hand over a cheque for €209,976 to Odhran Shelley, National Burns Unit director, at the culmination of a 131-day fundraising campaign.
The 131 days, of cake sales and dances, cycles and concerts, represented the time Ms McMahon spent in the burns unit.
In June 2014, she was airlifted to hospital from her home in Castlemahon, Co Limerick, after a food heater exploded into a ball of flames over her.
She had sustained serious burns to 50% of her body at a confirmation party for one of her children, after she poured methylated spirits into the already lit food heater, which then burst into flames. A ball of fire engulfed her face neck and hands.
The Joanne McMahon Thanksgiving Fund was launched last December, and ended last Friday night with the cheque presentation at Castlemahon Community Hall.
An initial target of €15,000 had been set, however after donations flowed in from all over the world, including Australia and America, proceeds came to over €200,000.
“It’s unbelievable. I would have been happy had we raised €30,000, but this took on a life of its own after we started last year,” said Ms McMahon yesterday.
“It was such a massive involvement by everybody. I have to thank all the people of West Limerick, but we also got support from Auckland, Chicago, and Sydney... it’s nearly impossible to thank everyone.”
Management at the burns unit are to erect a plaque marking Ms McMahon’s extraordinary efforts as its “first benefactor”.
A similar plaque will also be erected in Ms McMahon’s hometown of Castlemahon.
Her sisters, Noelle Collum and Mary Griffin, received minor burns as they tried to quench the flames.
Ms McMahon described Dr Shelly and the staff at the burns unit as “outstanding”.
“I’m getting there.” I’m a lot better now even than when I was last December when we embarked on this wonderful fundraising journey,” she said.
Despite her ordeal, the mother-of-five said she has nothing but “fantastic memories” of the fundraising campaign. “I’m so proud of everyone,” she said.
“Hopefully no one else will need the services of the burns unit, but if they do, at least we have done our bit to help it in some way.”