Paralysed Canadian diver and partner thank Ireland for help to get home
More than €82,000 raised to help James Martin injured after incident at Lusitania
Kirstin Chadwick (centre) with University Hospital Galway staff preparing for the departure of the ambulance carrying her partner James Martin to Shannon Airport.
A Canadian scuba diver who was left almost completely paralysed after getting into difficulty during a dive off the Lusitania shipwreck in Cork will return home to Canada on Thursday after successfully raising more than $90,000 (€82,000) for health and travel costs.
James (Kim) Martin has spent the past two months in University Hospital Galway since suffering serious injuries while surfacing from a dive in early August.
Mr Martin’s partner Kirstin Chadwick, who he was scheduled to marry a week after the dive, made a public appeal in September for support in raising the funds to pay for an air ambulance to return to Canada.
On Wednesday night, Ms Chadwick received confirmation that an air ambulance would be able to bring Mr Martin home. The journey cost $63,000, leaving the couple with around $30,000 to cover the bills from University Hospital Galway for the care Mr Martin, who did not have insurance, received while in Ireland.
The couple may also donate some of the money to the Kevin Repatriation Trust, Ms Chadwick told the Irish Times while en route in a taxi to Shannon airport, following the ambulance carrying her partner.
While Mr Martin still had a long road to recovery ahead of him, Ms Chadwick said his mood improved significantly after hearing about the public support following interviews with this paper and on RTÉ radio.
“It’s very overwhelming, it’s wonderful,” said Ms Chadwick, who learned about her partner’s injury after reading a short news report about the incident in The Irish Times. She immediately flew to Ireland and has spent the past eight weeks by his side.
Mr Martin suffered partial heart failure, was diagnosed with fluid on the brain and received a tracheotomy to help him speak. After a week in hospital he was taken out of induced coma and started to respond to basic commands. He has lost the use of his legs and has limited use of his hands and arms.
Speaking in September, Ms Chadwick expressed her gratitude for the support she received from the local community, particularly the B&B owner who initially refused to take payment but agreed to charge €25 a night after Ms Chadwick insisted on paying.
The couple will fly by air ambulance at 5pm on Thursday to Canada where Mr Martin will be transferred to a hospital room in the town of Huntsville in Ontario.
“Everyone’s asking if I’m excited to bring him home but I just feel privileged,” Ms Chadwick said, adding that 90 per cent of the financial support and online well wishes came from Irish people.
“These are people who have their everyday obligations and problems but thought of helping us and that’s so touching.
“We will never forget the people of Ireland; they were kind, warm, generous and they are family. I’ve been reminded that the world is a beautiful place filled with beautiful people and when it falls apart, you can count on strangers to help you put the piece back together.
“I said to the University Hospital Galway staff and I say to everyone who has helped us: you saved my best friend, my fiancé, my hero and in doing so, you saved me. Thank you for giving Kim and I a second chance at life; thank you for sending us back home.”