Catherine O'Leary has a special interest in this weekend's All-Ireland Football Final between Cork and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin.
While her allegiance is most-likely with her hometown of Cork, Catherine's only bet a silent wager — is that some of the wealthier fans who prefer to see the game from luxury boxes will take part in an auction for those seats — to raise enough money so that some of her life can be restored.
In January, 2008, Catherine — a hard-working mother-of-one — was stuck with an unstoppable case of the hiccups. Doctors could not diagnose what was wrong, and her weight plummeted to 84 pounds.
An MRI scan revealed a golf ball-sized tumor in her brain, and she was immediately scheduled for surgery. During the operation, she suffered two massive strokes, which left her paralyzed from the neck down. In a condition known as cerebromedullospinal disconnection, Catherine is conscious and aware of her world, but is unable to speak or to move. Almost all voluntary muscles, except her eyelids, are paralyzed.
And that is the only way she can communicate with people — and her 10-year-old son — by blinking her eyelids.
Her brother Shane recalls the horror they went through the weekend in January when Catherine originally had the scan.
"The MRI was on a Friday, and by this stage Catherine had started losing feeling in her fingers," he says.
"On Monday, when the results were in, the doctors couldn't even look at us straight." They said a "high-risk" brain operation was her only hope, but it was a slim one: She was given just a 15 percent chance of survival.
The night before her surgery, the anesthetists and neurologist spoke to her about the dangers of the 15-hour operation.
"Do you have any questions?" Shane recalls them asking.She said, "No."
They asked, "Are you frightened?" She said, "No, I just want to get this out of me and let me eat again."
Her brother says she wasn't one bit frightened. "See you in recovery!" were the last words Catherine has ever spoken.
Since then, there has been a strong fundraising effort to help Catherine move back to her home in Carrigaline from Cork University Hospital.
The amount needed to specially customize her house for her condition is $132,000, of which $88,000 has been raised so far.
An anonymous donor gave the two Croke Park suites, which can hold more than 20 fans, for auction this week, and Catherine and her family are hoping for the best.
Bidders can contact Catherine's father Pat at 086 080 2969, or David Joyce at 086 307 6064. For those out of the area, `donations can be made to the Catherine O’Leary Fund, Permanent TSB, North Main Street, Cork; a/c 12536790; sort code 99-07-07.
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