Mum dies hours after fulfilling lifelong dream of dolphin swim
IT was Jane O'Connor's dream to swim with the dolphins. But just a few hours after the devoted mother of two fulfilled a lifetime ambition in a Florida waterpark, she died after a massive heart attack.
Jane's body was met at Dublin Airport yesterday by her husband, Niall, who found his wife of 23 years shortly after the fatal cardiac arrest last Friday night in the holiday home where they were staying.
The couple and their two teenage sons, who live off the South Circular Road in Dublin, were coming to the end of a two-week holiday to celebrate Jane's 50th birthday, which was to take place next week.
They had spent the day in the Discovery Cove theme park, where Jane had finally realised her dream to swim and play with dolphins.
"She always had a thing for dolphins. She always wanted to swim with them. She didn't want a big party for her birthday -- she gave me a big party last February, but she didn't want a party. So we said we would go and do a trip to Orlando," Mr O'Connor said yesterday.
"It was a dream of hers to swim with them. She had the most wonderful day with the dolphins. I have some fantastic footage of her."
Prior to her death, the 49-year-old worked as a special-needs teaching assistant in St Louis school in Rathmines.
She was also heavily involved in nearby St Mary's College, where her son Aaron (15) is a student and first-born Luke (18) has just finished.
After a meal out following the day at the park, the family had returned home to their rented holiday home where Jane was later found collapsed in a bathroom just before midnight.
Efforts by members of the emergency services to revive her proved unsuccessful and she was pronounced dead about an hour later in hospital.
"I tried mouth-to-mouth -- my previous experience was in the Order of Malta for years. One of my sons rang 999. Aaron went onto the street looking for help. Within minutes the police arrived," said Mr O'Connor, who has a barber shop in Blackrock.
"I loved her so, so much. She was my life. And she was the boys' life. We have lost someone very, very special."
When the three remaining members of the family returned to Dublin, they made a photo album of pictures taken on her final day, with Jane beaming as she stroked a dolphin.
Another picture of the whole family hangs above the dining table in their home.
Jane's remains arrived into Dublin Airport yesterday morning in advance of her funeral Mass on Monday in the church of St Paul of the Cross in Mount Argus, the same church in which she got married.