Saturday 24 February 2018

Joanne recovers quickly enough to cheer on heroes

INSPIRATIONAL: Joanne O'Riordan and her brother Steven with new pet turtle Enda, named after the Taoiseach
INSPIRATIONAL: Joanne O'Riordan and her brother Steven with new pet turtle Enda, named after the Taoiseach
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

AN IRISH teen born without limbs who earned worldwide plaudits for an inspirational UN address has made an astonishing recovery from major surgery and plans to attend the Munster football final today to cheer on her beloved Cork.

Joanne O'Riordan, 16, from Millstreet, Co Cork, underwent a 12-hour operation just over three weeks ago to insert a steel rod in her spine -- but she still intends to be on the sideline at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick as the Rebels face Clare.

Doctors were so astonished at the speedy recovery of the plucky teen that they told her mother she should qualify for a Guinness Book of Records entry.

Joanne suffers from Amelia -- where she was born without arms and legs. But she also suffers from scoliosis, or curvature of the spine.

An operation to help correct the condition was only partially successful three years ago and doctors decided they needed to insert a small steel rod to support Joanne's spine. She underwent surgery in Our Lady's Hospital in Crumlin last month -- and incredibly insisted on pushing herself in her wheelchair to receive her anaesthetic.

Joanne's mother, Ann, admitted that her family are now getting used to the teen astonishing them with the sheer force of her will.

"It was typical Joanne -- she told the specialist to just get on with the procedure because she needed to be ready for the Munster football final," Ann said.

Joanne has warned the Rebel footballers they have her to deal with if the performance isn't up to scratch.

"Joanne will be the loudest and the most enthusiastic Cork supporter on Sunday -- they'd better beat Clare or they will have to answer to her," Ann laughed.

Joanne has used a wheelchair and computer technology to ensure she is able to pursue her studies.

Her determination earned her a prestigious invite to address a UN technology conference in New York earlier this year.

Her heartfelt plea for researchers to develop a robot to allow her pursue her goals earned a standing ovation.

Joanne is now also set to receive a major honour in her native Cork to mark her bravery and determination.

Joanne has already noticed an improvement in her posture thanks to the steel rod now supporting her spine -- though, in typical fashion, Joanne insisted her own GP was perfectly able to remove her stitches and that a trip back to Dublin wasn't necessary.

"Her friends have been absolutely fantastic -- they have been calling to see her, sending her texts and dropping her messages on Facebook and e-mail," Ann added.

Joanne -- a Transition Year student -- has also appeared on the Late Late Show and crossed swords with Taoiseach Enda Kenny when she took him to task over cutbacks to disability budgets last December.

Joanne's brother, Steven, is producing a documentary about his sister to be entitled: No Limbs, No Limits. UK channels including the BBC and Channel 5 have already expressed an interest in the documentary.

It will deal with how Joanne uses technology to live as normal a life as possible and to pursue her studies.

Sunday Independent

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