'You always think it's not going to happen to you' - Our son John had everything to live for
'Normalisation' of illegal party drugs puts young people at risk, say parents
The parents of tragic student John Ryan have hit out at the normalisation of illegal party drugs.
Patricia and Denis Ryan said young adults and their parents need to be more aware of the deadly dangers of the "rampant" use of drugs.
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Their son had completed his second year as a mechanical engineering student at NUI Galway just days before his death at the age of 20. They received his exam results after his death.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent at their home in Borrisoleigh, Co Tipperary, they said they were still "numb with grief".
John collapsed in a house in Limerick City over the May bank holiday weekend after "ingesting" a substance which the family understand to be illegal drugs, but they are not sure what substance he took and they are awaiting more information.
"John had lots of friends and he was very good humoured. The world was his oyster," said his mother.
She and Denis said that, as the eldest of their four boys, John had always been a sensible boy growing up. He loved playing golf and he had been a member of the local under-16 hurling team that won the county championship. He would have been travelling to Croke Park to support Tipperary in today's All Ireland hurling final against Kilkenny.
He also enjoyed playing cards with people of all ages, including a number of elderly players, at local cards events.
John had taken part in the annual Borrisoleigh GAA annual golf outing. Afterwards, John and five friends travelled by train from Thurles to Limerick on the Sunday to attend a number of festival events.
They planned to stay with student friends at a house in the city.
His father, who has a local garage business, said they received a telephone call after 10pm informing them John had ingested something that had a devastating effect on him.
"One of his friends told us that he had 'taken something' and that paramedics were working on him and that he was in trouble," said Mr Ryan.
The couple rushed to University Hospital Limerick where they were unable to see him immediately, as a medical emergency team were working on him.
"His temperature was rocketing and they could not get it down. He had a fierce high temperature," he said.
John's condition grew steadily worse and his kidneys were failing. His liver suffered serious damage and he was placed on life support. After two days he was transferred to St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin. It was indicated that if he was to have any chance of survival, a liver transplant would be needed. He died two days later.
"People complain about Ireland's health service but John received unbelievably good care in Limerick and Dublin. The doctors and nurses tried everything possible to save him," said Patricia.
The couple want to tell people about the dangers caused by the widespread availability of drugs.
"We don't want another family to go through what we've been through. People must not let the use of drugs be normalised. Drugs are everywhere. They are so freely available, it's scary," said Mrs Ryan.
"We don't want John's death to be in vain. This issue needs to be highlighted more," she said. Mr Ryan pointed to national publicity about road safety, with regular updates of the death toll on Irish roads.
"They should be publishing a head count on drug deaths just like they do with road fatalities," he said. "Drugs are now so cheap, they are cheaper than alcohol."
At his funeral in Borrisoleigh, John's grand-uncle Fr Denis Kennedy, based in Glasthule, Co Dublin, spoke powerfully about the dangers drugs pose to young people.
Denis and Patricia said their eldest son had everything to live for. John enjoyed working in the family garage in Borrisoleigh during the summers and he had a scheduled interview for a summer job with the Revenue Commissioners for this summer. He was also planning a golfing holiday with his cousins in Spain.
Mrs Ryan said no family can afford to be complacent about drugs.
"You always think it's not going to happen to you," she said.