The Irish in Boston have once again rallied together to support one of their own as an online fundraising campaign to raise funds for an Irishman recovering from life-saving surgery has reached approx. $22,000 in three weeks.
In the wee hours of September 13, Leo Phelan, woke up complaining to his wife of five years that he wasn't feeling well and clutching his head. Hours later, the Wicklow native was fighting for his life at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.
"I still don't know why I told him to get in the car," Emily Phelan said.
"I am so glad I did."
Call it instinct; call it luck but Emily’s quick thinking saved her husband’s life.
Doctors found a large aneurysm that had ruptured in Leo's brain and the emergency team spent nine hours operating on the father of one trying to save his life.
“It was completely out of the blue, he [Leo] hadn’t complained of any headaches and there is no family history,” Emily remarked.
“Doctors said “it was the size of a cherry” ….. It was terrifying”
An aneurysm is a weak spot on a blood vessel that causes an outward bulging or ballooning of the arterial wall. Whilst an aneurysm can affect any vessel in the body, if it occurs in the brain it can be fatal.
If a patient is lucky enough to survive a burst brain aneurysm, the majority have residual neurological deficits such as difficulty with memory, walking and talking.
Since undergoing the life-saving surgery, Leo, has spent his time recovering at the ICU ward at Brigham's and appears to be making good progress.
"Everyone[ Doctors] is happy so far and thankfully no signs of long-term damage to his memory or speech," Emily said.
"His walking is getting better all the time too."
And for the first time in weeks, Leo's 6-year-old daughter Claire can finally give her dad a hug.
"When the bandages came off and she seen the staples on his head, she was a little mesmerized and a little scared to be honest"
"At the start, I had to hold her over him so that she could give a hug and now thankfully she snuggles in beside her dad in the hospital bed. It is something I am so grateful to be able to see," remarked Emily.
Although Leo has surprised everyone with his progress, the couple has been advised that the road to recovery is slow.
“Leo thinks he will be back to work by November,” Emily laughed.
Doctors know better and have advised the carpenter by trade that he can expect to be out of work for the next six months to a year at least.
Whilst the Phelan’s are feeling blessed knowing things could have been a lot of worse, they now face mounting medical bills. The family are hoping that their medical insurance will cover the majority of the costs however at this point, they are still unsure how much they will have to cover themselves.
“I actually don't know a figure yet,” Emily said “The total will be in the ballpark of one million dollars but what is our out of pocket costs is yet, I just don't know.”
"Thank goodness Massachusetts requires health insurance. It is definitely something people should think about. If they don't have insurance, get it!"
As the young Phelan family face an uncertain future, the Irish American community in Boston do what they do best, and have once again come together to support one of their own.
A fundraising campaign was set up on the crowd-sourcing site online by Emily’s sister to alleviate some of the medical costs that the Phelan’s have incurred and to the family’s astonishment; they have raised approx. $22, 000 in less than three-weeks.
Along with the online efforts, a fundraiser has been organized in Boston on November 8 to help out the family.
Mark Little, a spokesperson for the committee organizing the event explained “For many Irish living in Boston with their families in Ireland, the friends you have here become like a second family. We enjoy the good times together but we also rally together when our friends need us most. Leo and his family has always been strong supporter of various causes in the Irish American community and now it is our turn to support them."
Emily admits been “blown away” by the support and generosity shown to her by family, friends and the Irish American community in Boston.
“It has relieved so much stress,” Emily said.
“It will help give Leo the time to recover without worrying. I just want to thank everyone so deeply for their help and generosity.”
For those wishing to attend the fundraiser it will be held at The Clock Tavern in South Boston on November 8 at 8pm. Tickets $20. For more information please call Mark 617-922-9971