GAA player who fell 30 feet from a Holylands house looks at life 'in a different way now'

Conelth McGrenaghan last year donated £10,000 to the Brain Injuries Matters charity. Picture by Mal McCann

A GAA player who survived plunging 30 feet from a window onto a road in south Belfast has told of how he looks at life "in a different way now" following his miraculous recovery from a brain injury.

Conleth McGrenaghan, a Creggan Kickhams player, says he knows he has to "live life and enjoy it" after his brush with death in April 2015.

The 21-year-old from Randalstown suffered serious head injuries when he fell from the window of a student house in the Holylands area.

Rushed to hospital, he was then transferred to London for life-saving treatment after developing respiratory problems and spent more than two weeks in intensive care.

"I was in a coma and stopped breathing so it was a really bad time, especially for my family," he said.

"I was transferred to London for ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) treatment, but to be honest I hadn't a clue what was going on and I have no real interest in knowing either, they were dark times.

"My family were told to prepare for the worst, which is awful to think they went through that.

"But I fought hard and was brought back home to the Royal, to the neural ward and then Musgrave Hospital for rehabilitation where I was given speech therapy as I suffer from aphasia.

Two months after the freak accident, he was discharged from hospital and said the "big thing for me was to move forward". He said the support of family, GAA club, university, medics and the charity Brain Injury Matters allowed him to recover fully.

"My accident happened in April and at the time I was in my first year of a communications and advertising course at Jordanstown," he said.

"I had a lot of anger, so many people kept saying 'you can't do this, you can't do that'. But I felt physically well but I was facing a lot of negativity and all I wanted to do is get on with my life.

"Thank god for Jordanstown, they gave me so much support for getting back to me course.

"And in terms of my sport, Brain Injury Matters and Creggan were able to help me, they both did so much.

"I've always been a big sports fan, I was a footballer and hurler so I wanted to get back out playing sport, I didn't want what had happened to me to stop me from doing that.

"I fought and I fought to get back to hurling, they were able to sort out the insurance for me to be able to play again.

"I had to also understand that I wouldn't be able to play football again because of the head injury. The whole thing for me was to tick certain boxes - one was to get back to university, one to get driving again and then to get back to hurling - and I ticked all three of these boxes."

Mr McGrenaghan supports the work of Brain Injury Matters to raise funds and awareness for the charity which helps people with acquired brain injuries to rebuild their lives.

The charity will host a conference on Thursday exploring the benefits of sport for people with disabilities, such as spinal cord injury, stroke or acquired brain injury.

Fiona McCabe, chief executive of Brain Injury Matters, said the 'ReSport' event at Windsor Park will "promote awareness of the potential for sport to aid rehabilitation and community reintegration for those who are living with a disability".

"Our aim is to make sure that this event offers practical knowledge and skills for those working with disabilities in the field of sport for rehabilitation....and we hope that this conference will be the main driver for the development of this emerging group."

From left, Dr Suzanne Maguire, consultant in rehabilitation at Musgrave Park Hospital, Fiona McCabe, chief executive of Brain Injury Matters and Alan Crooks, IFA Development Manager, Disability Football launch the sport and disability ‘ReSport’ Conference to take place on Thursday. Picture by Press Eye/Darren Kidd

Conleth McGrenaghan, right, pictured with Martin Johnston after winning the Ulster Club Junior Championship

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