Irish Olympian Kieran Behan defied doctors who told him he’d never walk again
Former wheelchair-bound Behan headed to London and competed in gymnastics
An Irishman told by doctors he would be wheelchair-bound for life after an operation went wrong instead took part in the London Olympics in gymnastics and had his story featured on NBC and in The New York Times.
Kieran Behan was left hardly able to walk and highly sensitive to even the slightest touch to his leg. Doctors told him to prepare to be wheelchair bound for the rest of his life.
“Doctors told me, stop thinking about your crazy dreams because you’ll never walk again and you must accept that it’s over for you,” Behan said. “But I just kept saying: ‘No, no, no — this is not the rest of my life. This is not how it’s going to play out.’”
Before the series of unfortunate injuries threatened Behan, 23, of Ireland, he had fallen in love with and set his dreams at one day attending the Olympics as a gymnast.
This week will see Behan’s dreams come true, despite several adversities he overcame in his journey to the Summer Olympics.
The New York Times traced Behan’s inspirational story from his childhood up until today. Behan remembers first being enamored by gymnastics at the age of six while watching them on the Summer Olympic Games. At age 8, he began taking lessons and showed great promise as a tumbler.
However, at age 10, all that promise was seriously threatened when a benign tumor was found on Behan’s leg. During the surgery, Behan’s doctor left a tourniquet on too long and tied too tight, causing nerve damage in the aspiring gymnast’s left leg.
Coupled with the bleak outlook, Behan remembers cruel schoolchildren taunting him at the time.
“They’d say, ‘Oh, look at the cripple,’ and that was so hard for me because, already, I was doing gymnastics and I was short, and I was doing a girls’ sport,” said Behan.
“So a lot of times, I would sit at the kitchen window and watch all the kids running around the park and playing football, and I’d get pretty emotional. All I wanted to do was be an ordinary kid again.”
Despite all the adversity, Behan made an astounding comeback. Fifteen months after the botched surgery, Behan was getting back to normal.
However, only about 8 months after Behan was back in the swing of things at gymnastics, he encountered was has been described to be a “freak accident.”
Behan smacked the back of his head on the metal horizontal bar during a routine and tumbled to the ground in a lump, resulting in traumatic brain injury and severe damage to the vestibular canal of his inner ear.
The damage affected Behan so greatly that the slightest movement could trigger him to blackout, which he did perhaps thousands of times following the accident.
Behan’s mother Bernie Behan remembers her son struggling to turn his head, feed himself and walk without stumbling and looking as if he were dead drunk.
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