“I wear number 16 to represent the 16th of November the day I woke up and my second chance began.”
“When I was thirteen I contracted meningitis, however the warning signs did not present in me as one would suspect.
“In November 2019 I went to school after half term with a slight cold and thought nothing of it. I continued attending sports practices throughout that week and by the Friday I was feeling back to normal.
“At the weekend I had a lacrosse match where I played a complete game feeling completely fit and receiving the MVP at the end of the game.
“Twenty minutes later I was in the car home and experienced one of the worst headaches I have ever felt. I remember not being able to lift my head to look out the car window and crying in pain and confusion as it felt like I was no longer in control of my body.
“I went to bed and woke up on Sunday feeling back to normal again, so I attended a hockey game. I was fine for the duration of the game but once I returned home the symptoms began to kick back in again.
“I sat down for dinner with my family and dropped the glass I was holding onto the kitchen floor as I fell out of consciousness. I didn’t understand what was happening and I felt as if I was being crushed by a force from every angle.
“I went upstairs and became unresponsive - my parents rushed me to the local A & E unit.
“Thankfully my parents were met by a team of incredible doctors who administered a general antibiotic to cover all the bases.
“I was intubated and placed into a medically induced coma before being transferred to the children’s hospital.
“Nobody suspected meningitis. The infection spread to my brain, progressing to encephalitis, causing extreme levels of inter-cranial pressure, to the point where my family were told to say goodbye to me.
“My dad spent each day on the ward living hour by hour hoping I would make it to the next. Luckily, there were many more hours to come. Six days later I woke up and was extubated.
“I had lost around 15 kgs of muscle whilst in the coma, as well as experienced issues with my balance causing me to have to relearn to walk again.
“As an athlete this was crushing, sports was a huge part of my life and I did not see how I was going to achieve anything if I couldn’t walk five meters down the ward unaided.
“I remember the first time the physio came round and explained how and why my walking and strength was affected. At first I insisted that it was simply because I was wearing improper footwear.
“I had a tennis ball that I would flick up and down to myself even when I could barely sit upright, and I kept turning up to physio in my racing shoes although I wasn’t able to walk up the stairs yet.
“I eventually returned home and I was on a mission to get back to sport. I had lost the hearing in my left ear and still struggled with my balance but I had my head set on playing lacrosse in national schools tournaments that March.
“I watched hours and hours of game footage as I practiced my physio. Eventually I was back on the field.
“Last summer I represented Ireland in the U20 lacrosse European championships, and this summer will be representing them in the U20 world championships in Hong Kong.
“I wear number 16 to represent the 16th of November the day I woke up and my second chance began.
“Whilst meningitis was life-changing, it was not life defining. Every time I step on the field, I know it is only possible due to the incredible doctors and nurses who treated me.
“I wanted to share my story as meningitis does not always present clearly and can easily be missed. Survival can come down to a matter of minutes and quick decisions that can only occur if awareness is spread.”