Radio review: The remarkable positivity of Niall McCann on Inside Health, Radio 4

Nuala McCann

Nuala McCann

Nuala McCann is an Irish News columnist and writes a weekly radio review.

Niall McCann standing in front of a river
Niall McCann was seriously injured in a speed flying accident in 2016
Inside Health, Radio 4

It was a day that Niall McCann had been looking forward to for months.

It was April 2016 and the conditions were just right for speed gliding in the Brecon Beacons. You run off a cliff and fly from there. He and his brother were up for it.

But it all went wrong and what he did was smash into the mountain at 50mph.

It wasn’t the first time that the mountain rescue team had rescued him. They shared a bit of a joke about that when they arrived.

But this was very serious. One of the medics was thinking “unsurvivable”.

Later in hospital, he was told he might never walk again. “That’s all right. I’ve led an amazing life,” he said.

His positivity in the face of such a horror is amazing. He hopes his openess will let others know they are not alone

McCann is one in a million. His humour and positivity have served him well.

He talks frankly about the most intimate of subjects on Inside Health. He was left with bowel, bladder and sexual dysfunction. Initially he couldn’t wipe his own bottom.

It wasn’t part of the marriage vows but his family helped without complaining.

Niall McCann lying in a hospital bed
Niall McCann was left with bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction after his accident

His mother-in-law was a nurse who was due to come round to help. “She had wiped many bottoms of course, but I didn’t want one of them to be mine,” he said.

That was one of many challenges he set himself. That’s who he is.

The hospital where he was treated had one of the longest corridors in western Europe, so he said he’d walk that. Then he wanted to walk up to the place where he had had his accident. He also wanted to join that mountain rescue team… and he did all of those.

The main lasting effects of the crash is that he can’t relax his bladder to take a pee or tense his bowel to take a poo. “It’s hard to feel good about yourself with a poo in your pants,” he said.

Now the only time he soils himself is when he runs. He manages it.

He was warned early on that having children might be difficult so the couple registered for IVF. They had their daughter Phoebe – “by far the best thing that could have come from this accident”.

His positivity in the face of such a horror is amazing. He hopes his openess will let others know they are not alone.

Listen to him. Like a joke with a jag, he uses humour to get a serious message across.