A TEENAGE boy who was just "minutes from death" is recovering in hospital following an injury he sustained in a pre-match warm-up at his local rugby club.
Ronan Fitzgerald (13) was initially thought to have suffered concussion after an accidental collision.
When his parents arrived at Tralee Rugby Club on Saturday, Ronan was lying in a dugout with an icepack to his head. Brian and Sheila Fitzgerald brought him by car to Kerry General Hospital (KGH) where the surgical team quickly realised that there was something more sinister going on.
A CAT scan revealed a bleed in the brain and staff arranged for his transfer by ambulance to Cork University Hospital (CUH). Following surgery on Saturday, Ronan spent two days in intensive care on a ventilator.
And if there had been a delay of even a couple of minutes, his family was told, he would have died.
Ronan -- who is a first cousin of Kerry GAA star Kieran Donaghy -- suffered the same injury that claimed the life of Liam Neeson's wife, the actress Natasha Richardson, in a skiing accident in Quebec in 2009.
An accidental collision during warm-up resulted in Ronan being injured and the club contacted his parents to let them know. It was not believed his condition was serious.
"It's been a rough, roller-coaster ride and we have a long road ahead but we're just so grateful that Ronan is still with us," Ronan's mother, Sheila, a qualified nurse, told the Irish Independent.
The popular teenager, who is a first-year student at Mercy Mounthawk secondary school in Tralee, is in the high-dependency unit at CUH where his parents and brothers Sean (18) and Ciaran (15) have not left his bedside.
"He recognises us and he's talking a bit and they're very happy with his progress," Mrs Fitzgerald added.
"We're just so humbled by all the help and support we've had from both CUH and KGH.
A spokesman said the thoughts and prayers of everyone were with Ronan and his family.