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Novelist Nolan had 'wonderful life', thanks to parents

THE sister of an award-winning author yesterday praised her parents for allowing him to live a "wonderful life" despite his severe disabilities.

Whitbread prize-winner Christopher Nolan died on February 20 after choking on a piece of smoked salmon, his favourite food, an inquest heard yesterday.

Mr Nolan overcame the cerebral palsy he had since birth to become an acclaimed author, penning 'Under the Eye of the Clock' which won him the Whitbread Book of the Year award.

"Without my parents' input he would not have had 43 years, he would not have had three years," his only sister Yvonne Nolan said yesterday. "My parents afforded Christy the opportunity to live a wonderful life for 43 years."

Ms Nolan said her parents, Joseph and Bernadette Nolan, strove to enable him to fulfil his writing talents without support from the State.

She added: "They were absolute heroes to provide Christy with the quality of life he had."

Mr Nolan died at the age of 43 after he suffered brain damage as a result of a heart attack after choking on a piece of food at his home in Sutton, Dublin.

His father told the short sitting at the Dublin City Coroner's Court about his son's associations with U2, through Mount Temple school, which Bono had also attended.

"Their song 'Miracle Drug' was based on Christy," said Mr Nolan.

He explained that his son, wheelchair bound due to severe cerebral palsy, was placed on medication at the age of 10 which relaxed him so he could use a pointer attached to his head to type. His sister explained he had continued to write up until his death.

In addition to the award-winning book, penned when he was 22, he also published a volume of poems and short stories, aged just 15. His novel 'The Banyan Tree' was published to great acclaim in 1999.

"He wrote extensively since the age of 11 and went on to write many poems, short stories, two plays, many of which were published," his mother said.

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Mrs Nolan described how she called a doctor after she feared her son was choking hours before he died.

Nolan said on the evening of February 19, she was feeding him his favourite dish, diced smoked salmon.

"I had just fed him a little piece, when I noticed a strange look on Christopher's face," she said.

"I asked him if he was ok but he didn't reply. The colour had drained from his face and there was no sign of life."


Mrs Nolan feared he may have been choking on the food, and began to beat him on his back.

She then rang their doctor, who alerted an emergency ambulance and immediately rushed to their home.

Mrs Nolan added: "He was then taken by ambulance to Beaumont Hospital and I knew at that stage that Christopher was dead."

The writer had requested that he not be resuscitated in the event of a heart attack. His life-support machine was later turned off and he died at 2.30am on February 20.

Coroner Dr Brian Farrell passed a verdict of death by misadventure, to take account of his underlying swallowing difficulties.

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