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Kirsty cheated death and is now a world-class skier

A young woman who almost died from meningitis is now a world champion skier and is travelling to Canada to compete in the Winter Olympics.

Kirsty McGarry (24) from Dalkey, Co Dublin, woke up from a four-day coma after doctors had given up hope for her and turned off the life-support machine when she was nine years old.

Luckily, she made a full recovery after months of slow progress, and she is now on a high and travelling to Canada next month.

Kirsty says: "I'm heading out for training next week in France. This will be my second Olympics when I go to Canada and I'll be doing the slalom, the giant slalom, and maybe the super giant slalom.

"I was skiing full time for the past five years -- I'd spend a month in Ireland maximum every year because I was just training on the snow, and chasing it around."

Kirsty remembers the struggle that herself and her parents endured after she miraculously woke up from her coma, when the life support was switched off.

"I was unconscious for a few days. I remember feeling ill in school but then I remember waking up in hospital a few days later."

She added: "I was in hospital a good while, and I had problems with my knee so I was in hospital in a wheelchair. It took just a while to build myself back up again."

Kirsty's parents, Jane and Ian, helped raise funds for the Meningitis Research Foundation before Christmas, by charging €5 to anyone who wanted to see Santa ski in a polar setting at the Ski Centre, Sandyford.

Jane told the Herald: "It still actually chokes me when I think about it or when someone asks me to describe it blow by blow.

"We were told that she was gone and that she wouldn't survive. Even though she survived and is fit and well, you can't bear to think about it."

Jane says she does not want children who have contracted meningitis to go undetected, and she is actively working to raise awareness among doctors and parents.

"The first few weeks were slow because she was in a coma for four days. She was a frail little thing, but she bounced back and she didn't have to learn how to walk.

"After they switched off the life support she was still breathing. She is an absolute miracle because she got the rash, and it's sometimes too late if you get the rash. We don't want other kids getting that far."

But Kirsty has clearly bounced back from her illness, since she now juggles her studies of Physiotherapy at the Royal College of Surgeons with her training schedule.

"I'm not getting as much training as I should but I'm driving out to France for training.

"I'll do my exams and then go to Canada.

"I fly back from France for a few days to do my exams."