Fundraiser tonight for city man who contracted meningitis while living abroad

A 46-year-old city man undergoing treatment in the United States for a condition he contracted abroad is to benefit from a major fundraiser being held tonight (Thursday ) at 8.30pm at Crowe’s Bar in Bohermore.

Liam Cullinane, who currently lives in the area, contracted meningitis while living in Scotland in 1993. He suffered brain damage which affected his mobility and speech.

The former French Foreign Legion member who comes from a well known city publican family, was in a coma for a month and was initially told he would never walk again. However, he has made significant progress over the years using a custom made three-wheeled bicycle, which cost him €4,000, to get around.

He began a form of neurological chiropractic treatment, which costs $1,000 per day, on July 30 at the Carrick Brain Centre in the United States. A multidisciplinary brain rehabilitation facility it combines evidence-based diagnostics with leading-edge technologies and treatments to quickly help improve the quality of life of patients with brain injuries.

He hopes to continue his treatment with four additional weekly sessions and to continue to visit the centre less frequently as a maintenance patient.

The local charity ACT for Meningitis is organising a table quiz in a bid to get all Liam’s friends together to help support him. It hopes to raise €2,000 and is appealing to people who cannot attend the event to make a donation to the fund in the name of William Cullinane at Permanent TSB, 31 Eyre Square. Sort Code : 990725. Account Number : 20922149.

At the end of January, Liam, a past pupil of Colaiste Iognaid in Sea Road, will return to the US for the second round of his “life-changing” treatment.

Speaking about its impact on his recovery he says that by August 3, the fifth and final day of treatment on his first visit to the Carrick Brain Centre, he was very aware of the “sudden, yet massive, improvements” in the functioning of his body.

“It seemed as if someone had pressed the fast forward button. And as I adhere to the homework proscribed, the upswing continues … on the 27th of September I stopped using a walking stick and thus brought to an end a 20 year long effort to get around without the use of walking aids.”

But he says there is still a very long way to go. “It is barely half time, and after the next round at the CBC (beginning the 27th of January ), I expect to remove the medical letter from my passport explaining that while I may appear to be drunk, the staggering gait and slurred speech are actually a result of brain damage. Then, the second half will begin with me safe in the knowledge that I will be sober in the eyes of others at all times, and no longer will I face the hassle of almost being denied boarding at Heathrow airport because of my seemingly drunken state”.

Siobhan Carroll of ACT for Meningitis, says Liam is a true inspiration to people, especially those living with the after effects of meningitis or indeed any illness.

“We are so delighted Liam has been given the opportunity to have this amazing treatment and will do everything we can to support him on his journey”.

Due to the high demand for tables, ACT for Meningitis is recommending that people book them in advance by emailing Dawn at [email protected] or telephoning (086 ) 3052395. A table of four cost €40.

One in 10 people who contract meningitis will die leaving behind devastated family and friends. Survivors can be left with various after-effects including brain damage, blindness, deafness, limb loss (where septicaemia has occurred ), learning difficulties and behavioural issues. There is at least one case of meningitis a day in Ireland and 30 per cent of adults know someone who has had the disease.

Meningitis is a life-threatening infection which affects the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis and its associated disease, septicaemia (blood poisoning ), can kill within hours and can affect anyone at any time. Those most at risk are children under five, teenagers, young adults and people over 55 years.

About 300 cases are reported every year in Ireland. However, meningitis experts estimate this only represents half the true picture.

Act for Meningitis - set up in Galway by Siobhan and Noel Carroll in 2011 following the death of their four-year-old daughter Aoibhe from the condition in 2008 - say it is vital that people recognise the telltale signs as medical help should be sought immediately. Common symptoms are fever (cold hands and feet ), joint or muscle pain, vomiting, headache, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights, drowsiness and confusion.

Additional signs in babies include a dislike of being handled, pale blotchy skin, high-pitched cry, and a blank staring expression. Both adults and children may have a rash (septicaemia ) that does not disappear under pressure. Symptoms can come in any order and some may not appear at all.

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