Gold-winner pays tribute to prosthesis maker and friend

Thu, Sep 6, 2012, 01:00

WHEN 18-YEAR-OLD swimmer Darragh McDonald won Paralympic gold at the weekend there was one person in the crowd with whom he had developed a special relationship since birth.

Donna Fisher is the Ms Fixit of Irish prosthetics. She has worked with Darragh since he was a baby born without legs below the knee and without one arm below the elbow.

Her client list involves nine of the 49 members of Team Ireland along with Daraine Mulvihill, the Channel 4 presenter, who lost her legs below the knee and part of her hands to meningitis when she was 16. A Scottish woman, she has been living in Ireland and working for 20 years in Dublin’s Cappagh Hospital, where she looks after the prosthetics department.

She has been seconded by her company, prosthetics maker Ottobock, to work at the Games and was by Darragh’s parents’ side when he won gold in the S5 400m freestyle on Saturday.

“I so wanted him to do well. When he won, we were all crying. I’m not one who wears their emotions on their sleeves, but I couldn’t help but cry.

“I’ve watched him grow up and seen him turn into the most amazing young man. I said to his mother : ‘Would you have believed 18 years ago that we would have been standing here doing this?’ And she said: ‘Donna, you have no idea.’

“It was so tough for his parents when Darragh was born. All the hopes and dreams you have for your children and you just wonder how can this little fellow manage when he has got so many issues.”

The feeling is mutual, according to McDonald, who describes Fisher as a “good friend”. He is particularly proud of the tricolour prosthetic legs she made for him.

“She has always been there through every stage,” he said. “She has been a great woman and supported me greatly through the years.” Despite having no right arm below the elbow and only three fingers on his left hand, he has learned to play the bass guitar using an attachment built for him by Fisher.

“We’re absolutely out the door with work,” she says of the Ottobock contract. “It is everything from fixing punctures in wheelchairs to relaminating sockets for prosthesis, fixing broken feet, broken knees – everything from the smallest to the biggest job.”