Kevin fulfils vow to walk on Irish soil again
KEVIN McGarry left Ireland four years ago as an energetic young man, eager to learn about the world.
But yesterday the 23-year-old returned to his family home in the village of Kilnamanagh, Co Roscommon, after going through a harrowing ordeal that changed his life forever.
Kevin lost both his legs after he crashed his motorcycle into an electric fence while rounding cattle on a dairy farm in New Zealand in August 2007.
With his legs entangled in the fence wire and trapped underneath the bike, Kevin drifted in and out of consciousness as a fire fuelled by nearby spilt petrol raged around him.
It was several hours before another farm worker found him and called for help.
"I wasn't conscious for four weeks after the accident, and by the time I returned to consciousness my legs were gone," he told the Irish Independent.
Now, more than three years later, Kevin has returned to Ireland for the first time since enduring months of treatment for burns on more than 45pc of his body.
His recovery has included several amputations above and below his knees, carried out as part of more than 40 procedures, at the National Burns Centre in the Middlemore Hospital in Auckland.
And having had prosthetic legs fitted just six weeks ago, Kevin was determined to return home as soon as possible after finally being able to walk again.
"He said from the start that he'd only come home when he could walk," Kevin's brother Enda said. "He had that in his head all the time.
"Because he was a good few hours on the plane he needed help getting off, but he was able to stand for photographers in the arrivals hall."
Greeting him at Dublin airport was a crowd of family and friends, while on his return back to Kilnamanagh he was greeted with street banners and a queue of locals eager to see the brave man again.
Last night Kevin, whose ordeal was featured in a television documentary in New Zealand, thanked his neighbours and friends for welcoming him home.
"The reason I came home was nothing to do with New Zealand. I just wanted to come back and see everyone," Kevin added.
"My older brothers Keith and Enda came out straight away when they heard of my accident. My younger brother Donal was out last year on a holiday and my parents (Mattie and Geraldine) have been out to me a few times, so they were prepared for me returning.
"For everyone else though, they weren't. The neighbours were quite nice to come over and welcome me back."
Geraldine McGarry added that having her son come home was "a day I thought I would never see".
"We were told before he would be coming home last Christmas and the Christmas before, but it was only eight weeks ago that he was officially discharged from hospital.
"Then just a week ago he phoned to tell us he was coming home for good."
Despite his nightmare ordeal, Kevin's love of farming is undiminished and he hopes to study agriculture at third level.
"I can walk on prosthetic legs now. Hopefully when that builds up I'll have free rein on the land," he said.
Kevin's homecoming celebrations will continue today in Killarney at the wedding of his cousin.
Kevin's family are now looking for more financial assistance to help cover future hospital bills and help him on his way to his farming dream and a trust fund for him has been set up at Bank of Ireland, Main St, Boyle, Co Roscommon, where donations can be made through account number 79473117, sort code 90-53-28.