'We didn't think she would make it' - family of young woman (18) who suffered life-changing spinal injury in Spanish balcony fall
A mum has told of her anguish as she remains at the bedside of her daughter who suffered life-changing injuries after plunging from a third floor balcony at an apartment in Spain.
Niamh McGeoghegan (18) suffered multiple injuries when she fell at a friend's 18th birthday party in the early hours of St Patrick's Day in Benalmadena.
Her harrowing injuries include three fractures to her skull, swelling on her brain, fractured ribs, a punctured lung and shattered vertebrae, which severed her spinal cord.
Niamh, along with mum Claire (47) and dad Damien (49), moved from Co Down to Spain four years ago.
Her sister Aoife (22) is currently studying in Belfast.
The heartbroken family face an anxious wait as they stay by her bedside throughout her recovery.
Claire described Niamh, who is studying for her A-levels, as a "fighter" who is giving the family strength through her determination.
At the time of the accident Claire said that she had suffered a nightmare and had woken up feeling distressed.
She said: "The strangest thing was, that night I had been sleeping and I woke up screaming just after 12 o'clock and I had a dream that I was falling backwards.
"And then Niamh's friends had messaged to say that she had fallen from a balcony."
The family rushed to be with her and said that when they saw her for the first time in hospital it was "horrible".
"Initially we didn't think she would make it from the fall she had," added Claire.
"It shows you how determined she is, and it's her determination and fight that's making us think that she's such a strong girl."
Niamh's friends have also been a constant support as they have rallied around the family - both home and away.
And those who were with Niamh at the time are coming to terms with seeing her fall and their attempts to reach out to her.
Claire said Niamh is a "devoted" friend, which is evident in the outpouring of love both she and her family have received. They have even started a book which they are all signing to show Niamh the support she has had since she has been in hospital.
And on Mother's Day on Sunday her friends sent messages to Niamh's mum telling her how much she loved her. Claire added: "Even her friends from back home, they've been sending me messages last night on Mother's Day and they said because Niamh isn't able to tell you that she loves you, 'she really loves you' which was just lovely from her best friends." Equally, Claire said that Niamh knows how much she is loved and that is what they have been telling her.
"She has been her entire life, she knows how much we love her," she added.
"She is very determined, really lively, always having fun, always just a really lively girl."
Claire said that the family have been going through a "roller-coaster of emotions".
She added: "You are just doing what you have to do and getting on with it, you've no other choice."
The family are fundraising so they can have all the equipment that is required for Niamh when she gets out of hospital so she has the smoothest transition - however, she is expected to be in hospital for several months.
She said: "When Niamh comes out of hospital, I want everything in place for her.
"I want to make sure she can live the best life she can with whatever equipment we need, wheelchairs and everything.
"There's still things we don't know; she can definitely move her left arm but they want to do some tests because there is nerve damage to her right arm.
"The worst thing is going to be trying to explain to her that she's paralysed and for her to accept that.
"We don't know at this stage, her brain seems to be functioning and she has been following commands, she can talk and remembers the incident, so we don't know if there will be brain damage as such.
"On Sunday she kept telling one of the nurses how sorry she was and how much she loved me and her dad.
"All we've been saying to her is she has nothing to worry about, nothing to be sorry about and how much we love her."
The family have been taking a lot of comfort from the loving support and well-wishes they have received.
Claire added: "So many people have provided support and they have been saying, 'they don't know what to say', and I wouldn't either, it's just so shocking.
"But the fact that so many people are offering their support is really lovely and all the prayers she's been getting - it really does help."
- More information on her fundraising can be found at www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/tony-curran-5