Father of Donal Walsh speaks of son’s last great challenge

Aine Fitzgerald

Reporter:

Aine Fitzgerald

The Limerick schools inspired by Donal Walsh's story present a cheque of over �7,700 to Nicola Mernagh, National Campaigns Manager at The Children's Medical and Research Foundation, Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin. Also present are Donal's father Fionnbar and uncle Tom. Picture: Adrian Butler
THE County Limerick father of the late Donal Walsh who passed away from cancer on May 12 has recalled the last big mountain his only son had to climb before he died.

THE County Limerick father of the late Donal Walsh who passed away from cancer on May 12 has recalled the last big mountain his only son had to climb before he died.

Two weeks before his death, on a Wednesday, the teenager looked up from his wheelchair at the stairs of his Blennerville home outside Tralee. There were 15 steps before him. It took him half an hour to reach the top.

“When he was looking at that from his wheelchair before he went up, there I saw a man who was looking at God’s mountain, and his mountain was only 15 steps,” Fionnbar Walsh said this Thursday.

“He worked at it and he got up there. He stayed going up and down the chairlift until the Friday night before he died. He died on Sunday. We only had the memory of Donal two days in bed. ”

Donal had been told by doctors that he wouldn’t see Christmas.

“He was told he would be damn lucky if he made the New Year, there was no way he was making Easter, yet he woke up to his mother on May 1 and said; ‘Hey Mom, I made summer’,” said Fionnbar, “and he kept on going until May 12.”

The Knocklong native was addressing a group of secondary school students at the Absolute Hotel in Limerick city this Thursday.

Inspired by Donal’s message, the students of eight Limerick secondary schools organised a common colours day [non uniform day] to raise funds for Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin where Donal had been a patient. The colours day took place just two days before Donal passed away. Through their actions, the Limerick students raised in excess of €7,700 for the worthy cause.

In the months leading up to his death, Donal’s message about suicide and the conditions at Our Lady’s Hospital, Crumlin struck a chord with the nation. Donal articulated his story on The Saturday Night Show with Brendan O’Connor. While during the interview the teenager displayed a mental strength far beyond his 16-years, behind the scenes, Fionnbar explained, Donal was struggling.

“He shouldn’t have been walking since February,” Fionnbar explained.

“Brendan [O’Connor] turned around and said it was probably the only chance he was going to get to speak on a chat show and if he could take the glory of walking onto that chat show, he should try and do it.”

The family went into the RTE studio an hour early to practice.

“We practiced so he wouldn’t trip on the step and if you look at the interview again, he was out of breath by the time he sat down,” said Fionnbar.

“That’s because the cancer had eaten so bad into his lungs.”

For more see the next weekend’s editions of the Limerick Leader.