Wednesday 26 June 2019

Young Irish pilot in Dubai vows to walk again after losing leg in horrific motorbike crash

Emirates Pilot Jonathan Higgins before his motorbike accident in Dubai. Pic: Jonathan Higgins
Emirates Pilot Jonathan Higgins before his motorbike accident in Dubai. Pic: Jonathan Higgins

Sorcha Crowley

Sligo pilot Jonathan Higgins has been left "gobsmacked" by the public response to a GoFundMe campaign set up to raise enough money to pay for a prosthetic leg.

The 29-year-old lost his entire left leg in a horrific motorbike crash near Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on 15th December last year.

He's been recovering in hospital in Dubai but will have to return home to Ireland to have a prosthetic leg fitted - at an expected cool €80,000-€150,000.

Speaking to The Sligo Champion from his hospital bed in the American Hospital, Dubai, Jonathan is already looking to the future: "I'm hoping to get home at the earliest by the end of May, all going well. I've been very lucky."

"The physio team are excellent, I'm getting physio for an hour twice a day. I'm walking on crutches at this stage and we're seeing improvements," he said.

Jonathan, who is a past pupil of Sligo Grammar School, has sustained some nerve damage to his right leg but doctors are hopeful that will come back in time.

He gets about daily in a wheelchair but is determined he will be back up walking again once he gets a prosthetic leg.

He's already been in touch with Cappagh National Orthopaedic Hospital in Dublin: "I'm looking forward to getting a fresh pair of eyes medically and starting the process of prosthetics and getting back to walking on it. That's the next step," he said.

Because Jonathan had to have a very high amputation, medics believe he may be suitable for a micro-processor prosthetic leg to allow him greater movement.

It is very expensive however and must be replaced every 5-10 years.

Jonathan's girlfriend Laura Shanahan thought of setting up a GoFundMe page to help fundraise for the cost of such a leg. Since launching the page on April 23, they've raised over €46,000 towards their goal of €150,000. "I've been gobsmacked at how well it's doing, nearly 500 people have donated from near and far," he said. Jonathan had been a pilot with Emirates based in Dubai.

Fundraisers in Jonathan's home town of Easkey are also being organised, such as a Tractor Run on the June Bank Holiday weekend and various coffee mornings.

Jonathan is the third child of David and Daphne Higgins, well known community figures in Easkey.

"He was only given a 20pc chance of survival around Christmas," said Daphne, who along with her husband flew to her son's bedside after the accident.

"We were praying so hard. For the first five days he was going downhill. He was 11 and a half hours in surgery, with three medical teams working on him, medical surgical, orthopaedic and vascular.

"He started to improve once they removed his leg, his vital signs started coming back up but he still wasn't out of danger for two weeks and he only came out of the induced coma on 1st January," she said.

"People have been so generous. It will all be appreciated to get my son back walking," she added.

The Go Fund Me can be found here

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