A COUNTY Limerick man who was paralysed from the neck down in a car accident hopes to save lives by telling his story.
In 2005, Fergal Cagney’s whole life changed in the blink of an eye when he hit black ice at Ballinamona Cross between Hospital and Herbertstown. Now he has used his eyes to operate a computer and write his story.
“It was a very bad morning in January. I hit black ice, lost control and crashed in to an oncoming jeep. Thankfully I was wearing a seatbelt and no one else was injured. I had no broken bones or bruising but suffered injuries to my spine and was paralysed from the neck down,” said Fergal.
He spent four months in intensive care with tubes in his nose and neck for feeding and breathing. Not being able to speak Fergal used a reading board to communicate. Between the Mater, Regional and National Rehabilitation Hospital he spent two years in the care of doctors and nurses.
With the help of his parents, friends and carers he has made slow but steady progress and now wants to share his story with others.
Last week Fergal spoke to over 400 Transition Year students over two days at an event organised by Thurles Traffic Corps to educate future drivers and promote road safety awareness.
He concluded by saying: “If ye take nothing else from this talk take that it’s cool to have a cool car, it’s nice to have a nice car but it’s neither cool nor nice to be in a wheelchair.
“To me a car is like a loaded gun pointed at your head with the steering wheel as its trigger. Be careful with that trigger. Please drive carefully.”
He was invited to give the talk by Garda Tom Finnan and Garda Regina McCarthy, who he went to school with.
“You could have heard a pin drop. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a room and experienced anything like that,” said Garda McCarthy.
Alan Quinlan attended the event in the Garda college in Templemore and tweeted afterwards: “Met an inspirational person who was in a car accident in 2005 and is paralysed. His name is Fergal from Kilteely and he gave an amazing talk to the students about what happened him.”
Fergal has just embarked on his speaking career and hopes to do more talks, especially in schools.
“If I can save one life it would be good enough for me. You don’t appreciate what you have until it is gone,” said Fergal, who has given talks in UL and his old secondary school - John the Baptist Community School in Hospital.
“Eleven have died in road accidents since the school was founded in 1999 and five in the parish of Kilteely/Dromkeen in the last 10 years. That’s a lot in a small parish,” said Fergal, whose parents are Vincent and Frances and he has four brothers Noel, Dermot, Kevin and Brian.
Before the crash Fergal had a good job, played soccer, football and hurling and was very outgoing. His positive outlook hasn’t changed. He is the president of Kilteely Dromkeen GAA club, goes to many matches and enjoys socialising with friends and family. He is looking forward to going to Thurles for the Limerick and Tipperary game on Sunday. Asked how he remains so positive?
“That’s the way I am and I have a great family, friends and carers,” he replies with a smile.