Saturday 3 December 2016

'Hello grandma...' - Berkeley survivor Aoife calls home for first time

Claire McCormack

Published 06/09/2015 | 02:30

LONG ROAD TO RECOVERY: Dublin Student Aoife Beary has spoken to her grandmother for the first time since the balcony tragedy in Berkeley that claimed the lives of her seven friends
LONG ROAD TO RECOVERY: Dublin Student Aoife Beary has spoken to her grandmother for the first time since the balcony tragedy in Berkeley that claimed the lives of her seven friends

The girl who suffered horrific injuries while celebrating her 21st birthday when a balcony collapsed in Berkeley in California has spoken to her grandmother for the first time since the tragedy as she continues to make a heartening recovery, the Sunday Independent has learned.

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Aoife Beary, from Blackrock, Dublin, was able to say "hello grandma" in an emotional call home.

Visitors lay flowers on a makeshift memorial near the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Visitors lay flowers on a makeshift memorial near the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Flowers and cards are left for victims from the Library Gardens apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Flowers are laid at a memorial near the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Flowers and cards mark a makeshift memorial near the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Flowers and a framed photograph mark a makeshift memorial near the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States (R) speaks to the media with Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates (L) following a wreath-laying ceremony at the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Visitors lay flowers on a makeshift memorial near the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States (L) helps Neil Sands, President of the Irish Network Bay Area, lay an Irish flag atop two wreaths at the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Neil Sands, President of the Irish Network Bay Area, pauses for a moment after laying an Irish flag atop two wreaths at the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Visitors react as they visit a memorial near the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates (C) stands next to Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States (L) and Berkeley Police officers before a wreath-laying ceremony at the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates (L) hugs Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States, following a wreath-laying ceremony at the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates (L) participates in a wreath-laying ceremony with Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States at the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Neil Sands, President of the Irish Network Bay Area, lays an Irish flag atop two wreaths at the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates (L) hugs Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States, following a wreath-laying ceremony at the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
A man makes the sign of the cross over his heart after laying a bouquet of flowers near the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Mary Elzy says a prayer for victims of a balcony that collapsed in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, left, listens as Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland of the Western United States, speaks to reporters in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, left, hugs Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland of the Western United States, after placing wreaths at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Toni Mikulka places flowers at a makeshift memorial for victims of a balcony that collapsed in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
A flag of Ireland is draped over wreaths at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Flowers and a map of Ireland are left at a makeshift memorial for victims of a balcony that collapsed in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, left, hugs Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland of the Western United States, after placing wreaths at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, left, and Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland of the Western United States, walk in front of a building where a balcony collapsed in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Neil Sands of the Irish Network Bay Area places a flag of Ireland over wreaths at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland of the Western United States, left, and Neil Sands of the Irish Network Bay Area place a flag of Ireland over wreaths at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Her family said she is now on track to return home by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, her fellow survivor Jack Halpin (21) received a standing ovation during his graduation ceremony at UCD last week when he hobbled on stage on crutches to receive his scroll.

Over the past three weeks, Aoife has been working hard on her recovery at the Valley Medical Rehab Centre in Santa Clara, California.

However, her godfather James O'Doherty said her condition is not quite stable enough for her to travel home.

"She is making progress and I think her physical injuries are well on the way to mending but she still has a lot of recovery to do, rehab is difficult," he said.

"She is able to walk somewhat. She gets up every day and goes to occupational and physical therapy and speech and memory, but her return all depends on getting medical sign-off.

Read more: Berkeley priest to be honoured by President Higgins

"All the Berkeley kids are being supported by the HSE here and pastoral centre in Berkeley, there is an on-going conversation to ensure medical hand-over is seamless."

Two men participate in a special Mass for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse in Oakland, California June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Two men participate in a special Mass for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse in Oakland, California June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Father Aidan McAleenan, an Irishman who has a Parish in Oakland, speaks during a special Mass for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse in Oakland, California June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
The sun sets outside the Cathedral of Christ the Light, prior to a special Mass for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse, in Oakland, California June 17, 2015. Three men and three women in their early 20s, including an American friend of the Irish students, died in the collapse, and seven others were hospitalized. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Claire Raftery, a former Dubliner now living in San Francisco, plays the bagpipes prior to a special Mass for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse in Oakland, California June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
A man looks up while others pray during a special Mass for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse in Oakland, California June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Claire Raftery, a former Dubliner now living in San Francisco, stands during a special Mass for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse in Oakland, California June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Neil Sands, President of the Irish Network Bay Area, attends a special Mass for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse in Oakland, California June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Claire Raftery, a former Dubliner now living in San Francisco, plays bagpipes before a special Mass for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse in Oakland, California June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Mourners lay candles during a vigil for six Irish students Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Beck Diefenbach)
Mourners hold candles during a vigil for six Irish students Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Beck Diefenbach)
A mourner cries after placing a candle at a vigil for six Irish students Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Berkeley, Calif. The six Irish students died when a balcony collapsed during a party. (AP Photo/Beck Diefenbach)
Mourners stand by during a candlelight vigil for six Irish students Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Beck Diefenbach)
Candles illuminate a picture of Niccolai Schuster during a candlelight vigil for six Irish students Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Beck Diefenbach)
A flag of Ireland, flowers and a sign are shown at a shrine left for victims of the Library Gardens apartment building balcony collapse Wednesday, June 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
A man who did not give his name looks at photographs, cards and flowers from a shrine for victims from the Library Gardens apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, June 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Flowers and cards are left for victims from the Library Gardens apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, June 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Back home, Aoife's grandmother Maureen O'Doherty, who lives in Listowel, Co Kerry, was comforted to hear her grandchild's voice on the other end of the phone.

"It is the first time she has spoken to her. I don't think she said much more than 'hello grandma' - I don't think there was any conversation.

"It's been very stressful for her," he said.

Although Aoife is making encouraging progress, she isn't aware of the extent of the tragedy that claimed the lives of Irish students Eimear Walsh, Lorcan Miller, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster, Olivia Burke and Irish-American citizen Ashley Donohoe and injured seven others.

"Rehab is helping her understand what has happened. When anyone goes through something traumatic like this, short-term memory tends to be difficult," he said, adding that a memory board hangs in her ward to help trigger her recollection of the tragedy on June 16 when the fourth-storey balcony of the Library Gardens building collapsed.

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The road ahead is a long one and fundraising efforts are vital.

Celebrity chef and television personality Neven Maguire is even planning a special cookery demonstration at Hotel Westport - on Friday, November 20, at 8pm - with all proceeds going towards Aoife's recovery.

"I'm delighted to help in any way I can for this special young lady who is suffering. I hope it will be a great success," said Neven.

UCD will hold a remembrance ceremony for those killed or injured in the Berkeley tragedy on Wednesday in O'Reilly Hall.

Sunday Independent

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