Sunday 25 June 2017

Former garda diver who put his life on the line for others paralysed after holiday fall

Fundraising for father-of-two John Conneely (59) after life-changing spinal injuries

John Conneely
John Conneely
Denise Calnan

Denise Calnan

A FORMER garda diver who put his life on the line numerous times to help others is now confined to a wheelchair.

Father-of-two John Conneely (59) suffered spinal injuries in a tragic fall while on holidays in Amsterdam with his partner last year.

The retired garda, who is originally from Salthill, Co Galway but worked in Dublin, is now a quadriplegic, meaning his four limbs are paralysed.

“He was on a weekend break in Amsterdam last February when he fell,” his cousin Jarlath Conneely told Independent.ie.

“He was out for a meal when he felt slightly unwell, he suggested they pay and go out and get fresh air. He collapsed at the top of these steep, granite steps and plunged down the stairs basically.

“They managed to save his life after 11-hour surgery. Since then he has been a quadriplegic.

“For several months he stayed in hospital in Amsterdam, before he came back to the Mater in Dublin and now he’s at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire.”

John, who worked as a sergeant with the Garda Underwater Unit and was with the force for 30 years, always “looked after his health”, his cousin said.

“We are very close,” he said.

“He was my best man at my wedding and I was his, we played around together as kids, we’re good pals.

“John always looked after his health very well, he was into going swimming.

“Anytime he came to Galway, he was swimming or out walking on the promenade.

“He was full of life and enjoyed life to the maximum. This has to be a difficult place for him after all that.”

Now, John’s family and friends are raising money to help cater his home to his needs.

The proud father and grandfather will now require 105 hours of care every week, as well as the specialist accommodation and equipment.

The fundraising team, led by Jarlath, has already raised almost €30,000 through different events and said there is no stopping them now.

They have organised a benefit night in the Galway Bay Hotel on February 23 and said all support is welcome.

“There is nobody more deserving than this guy,” Jarlath said.

“This is now John’s dream, to leave rehab and to live in a domestic environment. He is going to need a huge amount of care and we’re going to have to fund that.”

Prizes at the benefit night include hotel weekend breaks, signed Irish rugby jerseys, signed Irish rugby balls, Connacht jerseys signed by the winning Pro12 team, signed Munster rugby jerseys, signed Dublin football jerseys and signed Galway jerseys.

“We’ll also have a male choir group called the Acapella Knights, who are fabulous, and one of Galway’s most popular bands, Da Derga.

“We’ll have a disco and there’ll be plenty of food.

“John said it is lifting his spirits to see that there is so much goodwill and so many people contributing to his cause,” Jarlath added.  

You can find out more about the fundraising night here and you can donate to John's cause here

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