A Tipperary man has issued an emotional appeal for aid to fund a surgery in Los Angeles that could make him blind but is the only alternative to the pain he is in now,
24-year-old Evan Hickey is trying to raise money to have a pineal cyst removed from the deepest part of his brain in a complicated keyhole surgery that will last for several hours.
Evan said: "Swallowing my pride and asking for financial help is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but I ask out of desperation.”
Evan suffers from constant headaches, dizziness, numbness in his left arm and left leg since the cyst arose last February.
The cyst is pressing on the optic nerve of his left eye which is causing Evan to have sensitivity to light and noise. He also finds it very difficult to sleep.
The neurologist in Cork told Evan that he wouldn’t be able to operate on him in his present condition and the surgery available in Ireland would be in serious risk of paralysis or death.
“When he lies down, the panic sets in and he can’t sleep a wink. He’s afraid he’s going to die,” said his father, Joe Hickey.
"Evan told me he could learn to live with going blind if anything went wrong during the operation, but he said he can’t live with the pain he's in right now,
“We had no choice. This is my child now but it could be anyone else’s next,” he added.
The Hickey family were told that they must pay $196,400 (approximately €170,000) to undergo a surgery in the US.
€75,000 has been donated so far in 20 days through donations made locally and online.
His father said that they knew the family needed to act quickly once they realised that there was a surgery that could treat the illness, which is not available to them in Ireland.
“We can’t let him live like this. Evan can’t walk 300 yards, he feels like he’s going to pass out,” said Joe.
“He has no quality of life, he can’t go out with his friends because he is so sensitive to noise and light. It’s no way to live,” he added.
Evan was travelling with friends in Vancouver, Canada when symptoms began to arise.
"I began to feel a dead weight in my body and a pressure in my head unlike any sensation I thought humanly possible," said Evan in an emotional open letter on his GoFundMe page
He said he began to feel very weak and numb, with tingling sensations in his body.
"Day after day, the symptoms worsened until every aspect of my average day became a burden. Eventually, it got so bad that the symptoms I had thought inhuman at the beginning of my illness were at least bearable," said Evan.
The young man struggled for months while in Canada, spending most of his earnings trying to find an explanation for what was happening to him, to no avail. He returned home to Old Bridge, Clonmel, Co Tipperary in March where he hoped he would be able to reach a diagnosis with the support of his family and friends.
His local GP, Dr Coleman Walsh, had arranged Evan to have an MRI as he had suspected that there was a serious medical explanation for his symptoms and a week after he arrived home, doctors in South Tipperary general hospital found a 22mm cyst on his pineal gland located in the centre of his brain.
Evan said he knew then "the nightmare was only beginning."
"I was once the life and soul of the party and now I can no longer bear to be in a crowd of people because the noise hurts every nerve ending in my body and the sensory overload is overwhelming," he added.
His father said that it is “heartbreaking” to watch their son in so much pain.
“The danger of the cyst growing any more is a terrifying. The emotional journey for us all has been a total nightmare, we’re doing everything we can to get him there” said his father, Joe.
After the diagnosis, he sought out the advice of specialists in Ireland only to find that they didn't have the technology or skilled surgeons needed to remove the cyst without putting his life in serious danger.
Evan and his family began researching the illness online and found a hospital in the United States that have microscopic technology that can remove the cyst entirely in a procedure lasting two and a half hours.
Evan immediately contacted the hospital, the Skull Base Institute in Los Angeles, and they told him that they could treat the cyst, although it was one of the largest cysts they have ever seen.
At least 6,000 people have been treated using this surgery with a 92% success rate and will be conducted by renowned brain surgeon, Dr Hrayr Shahinian.
However, the cost of the surgery is substantial so Evan and his family began fundraising to gather the money.
The local community have come together to help Evan raise the funds with many local events being organised.
Local pub Gleesons in Clonmel, Co Tipperary are organising a fundraising night called 'Band Aid 2017' which includes a performance well-known pop/swing showband 'The Pearly Whites'.
Organiser of the event Richie Gleeson said: "I was shocked when I heard about Evan's condition as was everyone else in Gleesons, who all know him very well. He has always been a larger than life character."
He said when he had the idea to organise the event, that "absolutely everybody wanted to do as much as possible to help Evan."
Evan’s father, Joe, said that the snowball effect that has happened since they reaching out to people has been “amazing”.
“Everyone has taken part in this, every organisation in Clonmel is donating because they know that we are a genuine case,” said Joe.
“They all know him and they all know how good a guy he is.
“We couldn’t fit anymore cards on the mantelpiece at home we’ve been getting so many. We have all the cards in bundles on the table,” he added.
Evan said: "I need to get my life back and surgery is the only way I can achieve this. I'm appealing to you to donate to my fund to help me realise my aim."
You can contribute to Evan's crowdfunding efforts by donating through the GoFundMe page (click here) or you can donate directly to Clonmel Credit Union on (052) 612 5292.