independent

Sunday 26 October 2014

The gift of life - How tragic Alan helped others

Published 26/02/2014 | 05:36

LAST November, Kerry footballer Louise Galvin and her boyfriend Alan Feeley were looking forward to spending Christmas together on a pre-planned skiing trip

Life couldn't have been better for the young couple, both of whom were enjoying busy careers in Limerick - Louise as a physiotherapist and Alan as a PE teacher.

The sports enthusiasts had everything to live for, but that all changed in early November, when Alan collapsed while working out in the gym at the University of Limerick.

Two days later the 28-year-old passed away, having failed to regain consciousness from a massive bleed on the brain.

While struggling to deal with the unimaginable tragedy that had befallen them, Louise and Alan's family were determined that some good would come from their immense loss, and agreed that Alan's organs would be donated - just as he had wished.

Louise, a physiotherapist at the Mid West Regional Hospital in Limerick, had discussed organ donation with her partner a few months before his death, having seen first hand the incredible benefits it can have.

"In my job, I work with adults with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) and had been talking to Alan about a patient who had celebrated the first anniversary of his lung transplant," Louise explained.

"To be honest, Alan didn't know much about CF and had never really thought about organ donation, but decided after that that it was something he would do, should anything ever happen. Not long afterwards he signed the card and kept it with him."

Because Louise and Alan's family were aware of his wishes, there was no doubt in their minds about what to do. His selfless decision meant that five people were given a new lease of life, after he donated his heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and pancreas.

"It was so good that we had discussed it previously and because Alan was young and fit and never smoked, we knew he could help so many people," Louise said.

"There are no words to describe the absolute tragedy that we were going though, but it was some consolation to know that his death wasn't a complete waste. What happened couldn't have been helped or avoided, but knowing he was giving the gift of life to others was some comfort."

Since Alan's death, Louise and his family have been determined to highlight the issue of organ donataion and have joined forces for a massive awareness campaign and fundraiser for the Irish Kidney Association this summer.

A dedicated website - www.alanfeeley.com - has been set up to help promote 'Alan's Sports Extrvaganza' which will take place in UL on August 2 and will incorporate a tag rugby tournament, an exhibition football match, exercise classes, physical education stalls and several other fun fitness activities.

A fundraising ball has also been organised for the South Court Hotel later that night, hosted by Michael O Muircheartaigh and featuring RTE's Jacqui Hurley.

"In organising this event we have three main aims," Louise explained. "Promoting organ donation, promoting physical activity among young and old and, of course, commemorating Alan."

While Louise describes her involvement in the campaign as a 'great distraction' from the bad days - when she admits not wanting to get out of bed - the Finuge native says that the issue has obviously become something very close to her heart.

"Thankfully, last year was a record year for organ donation in Ireland, but the reality is that 650 people are still awaiting transplants here," she sid, "Alan saved lives by donating his organs and we simply want to make more people aware of the amazing benefits of organ donation."

Having returned to football training with her native Kerry and basketball with UL Huskies, Louise says she is indebted to the people of Kerry, Limerick and Alan's native Mayo for their ongoing support through this heartbreaking time.

"Sometimes I think if I didn't have sport, there would be some evenings when I'd go to bed at night and never get up. But everyone has been so good to me.," she said. "Everywhere I go someone has a nice word and I honestly take comfort in that. I'm not angry, because it couldn't have been helped and Alan didn't suffer, but I just want something good to come from it."

Kerryman

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