Sunday 21 July 2019

Miracle coma survivor Oisin Merrit thanks Irish paramedic who saved his life after 20ft holiday fall

Oisin Merritt outside Letterkenny Hospital, where he is undergoing rehabilitation
Oisin Merritt outside Letterkenny Hospital, where he is undergoing rehabilitation
Oisin Merritt and his girlfriend Josephine O’Neill.
Oisin Merrit and Ryan Tubridy Newsdesk Newsdesk

A former Donegal footballer has thanked an Irish paramedic who saved his life after falling from a balcony on holiday.

Oisin Merrit (19) was celebrating his birthday on a lads holiday to Santa Ponsa, Spain, last year when he fell 20 feet from a balcony and slipped into a coma.

The young soccer star, from Stranorlar, said a paramedic from Galway, David Sullivan happened to stumble upon the scene and saved his life.

“Nobody really knows, nobody witnessed it first hand," he told Ryan Tubridy on RTE 2FM this morning.

“I was out with the lads and they’d gone to get a kebab, I stayed back and I just fell…I think I fell. Everyone just heard a thunderous bang.

"The lads said it was horrific, they were inside at the time and could hear the bang and people were screaming."

It was then that Mr Sullivan, who had just arrived on his own holiday, happened upon the teenager.

“I owe my life to him,” he explained. “I haven’t met him yet so I can’t thank him properly, but we keep in contact. He had just arrived in Santa Ponsa and just happened to stumble upon me straight away.

Oisin Merrit and Ryan Tubridy
Oisin Merrit and Ryan Tubridy

“He’s a paramedic and immediately went to work on me. He said it was 20 minutes before he started to see some sign of life.

“I asked him was I going to die and he said ‘I’m not going to let you die Oisin’. At that point, an ambulance arrived and he wasn’t allowed to go any further. I owe my whole life to him now."

He was taken to a nearby hospital and his family flew over within 24 hours to be by his side where doctors said they didn't expect him to live.

“Straight away they got flights and were with me within 24 hours, a lot of people helped. From there, they got a huge shock, didn’t expect to see me in a coma.

“They said to my mum, ‘Your son’s hanging on to a cobweb by his baby finger and it could snap at any time'.

“It was 48 hours later, I started to fight back.

Oisin Merritt and his girlfriend Josephine O’Neill.
Oisin Merritt and his girlfriend Josephine O’Neill.

“I’ve always said from day one, I’d rather go through it myself than go through what they did.

“My aunt started to clean the house and the room and it was set to be a wake house.  The doctor said there were people with less injuries who die straight away.

“I defied a few of the odds.”

Merrit said he doesn't have any memories until six months after the incident and had his first clear memory at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire.

“I’m still well on the mend, but the worst of it is over," he added.

“I’m still missing half my skull, they literally out half of my skull to let my brain expand and ease the pressure. I’m still waiting to get that skull back."

Although the athletic teen has defied the odds, he said it's a daily psychological battle to accept that his life as he knew it is over.

“That is probably, by far the worst battle," he told Tubridy when asked about the psychological impact of his injury. If you can imagine, everyone feels compassionate for pain, but what nobody can see is the psychological battle.

“Every doctor I met so far has told me I won’t play sports again, I’m a huge sports man…that was my life.

“Contact sports are a no go and a lot of people who don’t play it can’t really comprehend how difficult it is to hear that.

“When visiting hours are over and you’re alone in your bed at night…your whole life is taken away and your whole identity is gone.

“It’s a tough, long road and you have to be mentally tough."

He explained that normal day-to-day activities such as wading through crowds and watching a match in a pub are no longer possible for him when something as simple as accidental shove could "set him back to square one".

“Because I have no skull, I can’t get into crowded areas, walk down the street without somebody standing beside me.

“You have nothing to wake up for in the morning so to speak. You drag yourself our of bed and force yourself to do the things you can.

“I’ve won the battle but I haven’t won the war yet.”

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