LIFE changed in an instant for a West Cork based engineer who was left paralysed after falling less than 10 feet from a ladder.
John Kennedy suffered a permanent spinal injury last October 6th when he fell as he got his tool box from the loft in his garage to fix a leaking tap.
And now as his community rallies around him to fundraise for his future needs, the father-of-one is appealing to others to be extra safety conscious, and spare themselves the heartache he and his family are going through.
John is originally from Cobh and lives with his wife Ina and 3-year-old daughter Jessica in Carrigadrohid, near Macroom.
Speaking from the CUH he remembers that fateful day: ‘The three of us had been on holidays in Lanzarote in the last week in September.
‘My wife and I had both celebrated our 40th birthdays around that time. The day we flew home I fixed a tap which had been leaking.
‘I fitted a new tap but I wanted to be sure it was ok, so I went to get a vice-grips from the tool box in the loft in the garage.
‘As I came down, I had both feet on the ladder, but it somehow slipped and I fell nine or 10 feet to the ground.
‘I wasn’t unconscious, and shouted for help as my wife and brother were in the house.’
However, John a validation engineer who was working for Commissioning Agents Ireland at MSD, Brinny at this time, had a fair idea how serious his injury was as he had no feeling in his legs.
An ambulance came to the scene with advanced paramedics but it was decided to transfer him by air ambulance to CUH given the nature of the injury.
Later that day he was moved to the Spinal Unit in the Mater, Dublin where he was operated on the next morning.
However the prognosis was devastating – he had broken two vertebrae in his back (T11 and T12).
‘I was told there was no hope of me regaining movement from the waist down. The chance was as impossible as landing on the stars.’
At this point, John understandably becomes emotional: ‘That was absolutely devastating to be brutally honest. My life had changed forever in a second.’
However John, a keen cyclist, triathlete and marathon runner prior to his fall, is determined to maintain as positive an outlook as he can.
‘I suppose I am resilient; some would say stubborn,’ he said, adding that he does intend taking part in the Dublin Marathon in 2020.
He has been in the CUH since the accident, bar five days in the Mater, and some time home over Christmas.
He also broke his arm in several places in the accident, something which has required several surgeries, and which has delayed his move to the national rehab centre in Dun Laoghaire.
‘I have physio five days a week here and the doctors and nurses, everyone, are fantastic. But I do find I’ve a lot of time on my hands. I was used to having work, my family life, exercise – it’s very hard to just sit in a chair now; but that’s a fact of life,’ he said.
Naturally he’s still coming to terms with what happened but he hasn’t availed of counselling: ‘I’m still processing things in my own head, and if that doesn’t work I might avail of it,’ he said admitting that he’ll probably never fully get over what happened.
He credited his wife Ina, from Kilmurray and a medical secretary at the Mercy University Hospital, as a huge support.
‘And Jessica still just sees me as “daddy” which is all that matters.’
His community, as well as several sporting clubs, are also rallying around him with a variety of fundraisers while a GoFundMe page is also set up.
‘People’s generousity has been fabulous and also overwhelming,’ said John.
He said he was unsure of his future needs but pointed out that a light weight wheel chair costs €3,500 while a motor would cost an additional €4,000.
Adapted housing, medical equipment and a vehicle are other costs, he will have to consider.
In a recent Facebook post he wrote: ‘Every donation you have made in the past month will help me to make a purchase of some form of mobility equipment that should make the lives of my family and I better.
‘What makes this act of kindness all the more incredible, is that some people who have donated have their own private hardship stories to tell, and are valiantly living life to the full.
‘I don’t think that I will be able to repay people’s generosity, but I would like to think that when you see me out and about, mobile and enjoying life, it was your generosity which has aided that.’ He expects to spend between 12 to 14 weeks in Dun Laoghaire and is going to travel there with the best positive mental attitude he can muster.
‘If I’ve any negativity I won’t progress,’ he says matter of factly.
Physically, he says he’s not in pain but does experience discomfort.
‘It’s now about relearning ways of doing things. Simple things like only being able to use sinks without a pedestal; realising that not all wheelchair bathrooms are in fact big enough for a wheelchair; how bumpy pedestrian crossings can be – all those small things are now part of my life going forward and there’s no point whinging or crying about it; I have to try to live life to the full.’
Again on Facebook he wrote: ‘As most of you know 2018 was a very tough year for my family and I. The one thing it had taught me is that family and friends come first.’
And in this interview he added: ‘You have to grab life by the horns as it could end in an instant. I didn’t realise just how good I had it.’
• Upcoming fundraisers to support John include a cycle by Coachford Cycling Club on March 24th including a 30k and 60k route; donations can also be made at https://www.gofundme.com/john-kennedy-adapting-to-life-with-paralysis.
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