My Health Experience: ‘My eyes were fixed and dilated. I was basically dead’
A clash during a rugby warm-up left 14-year-old Kerry schoolboy Ronan Fitzgerald unable to play contact sports again
I’m going into second year in Mercy Secondary School Mounthawk in Tralee. I am big into sport and really like rugby and football. My cousin is Kerry footballer Kieran Donaghy. The accident happened on November 3rd last year when I was doing a rugby warm-up. I clashed heads with two of my friends.
We were going through exercises and I was in a ruck and someone ran in from the side and his head hit off mine and I hit against another head.
All this was told to me afterwards. The last thing I remember is from before Halloween last year so I have no memory of the accident or what happened just after when I woke up.
After the clash, I went to the sidelines and was getting sick. They called my parents and when they came they saw me and knew I wasn’t well, so they rushed me to the hospital in Tralee. There, they did a scan on my head and found I had a left-sided bleed from my brain. There was no blood on the outside because it was just bleeding on the inside. They told me after it was a subdural haemorrhage – I think that’s the proper name for it anyway.
From Tralee, I went to Cork University Hospital (CUH). The ambulance only took one hour to get me there and the neurosurgery team was waiting to meet me. My Dad says it was like battlefield surgery and they didn’t even take me off the ambulance gurney I was on.
My eyes were fixed and dilated and I was basically dead at that point. What they had to do was open the left-hand side of my head, from my ear to the mid temple, and cut out a section of the skull and take the pressure off the brain.
After a few days they took me off the life support machine and then I spent eight weeks there in the Puffin Ward in the CUH.
I was in a wheelchair and had to have speech and language therapy. I couldn’t have a conversation and couldn’t walk around.
Like, if there was a car I was trying to talk about, I would say house instead of car, and I couldn’t remember the names of things or get the words out.
Megan was my occupational therapist and she was very good to me, and everyone there was very good in the hospital to be fair.
I had to go to Dún Laoghaire also to the National Rehabilitation Centre for more than six weeks I think, to learn how to walk again. It was strange being in a wheelchair especially as I was used to being so sporty and active. I made some friends who were there also, so that helped. I was in hospital for four months altogether and I was so glad to get home.