good spirit | 

Appeal for Irishman left badly injured in the US after being hit by drunk driver raises €75,000

Niall Maher is facing significant rehabilitation fees as he battles to recover from substantial body injuries as well as an injury to his brain

Niall Maher, from Kerry, is now facing significant rehabilitation fees

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

A fundraising appeal for an Irishman who suffered a traumatic brain injury after being hit by a drunk driver in the US has gathered more than €75,000 in donations.

Niall Maher, from Kerry, was hit by the car as he was walking back to his friend’s house from dinner in Campbell, California on January 22.

The 44-year-old is now facing significant rehabilitation fees as he battles to recover from substantial body injuries as well as the injury to his brain.

He had travelled to California early this year after he learned that a good friend there had a brain tumour and only had weeks to live.

Niall is currently receiving treatment in San Jose and is scheduled to be discharged from the hospital at the end of March.

However, his post-acute care will have to take place in California until he’s physically and mentally able to fly.

With the cost of private rehabilitation centres in California ranging from $25,000 (€22,000) to $60,000 (€54,300) per month, his partner, Zita O’Reilly, decided to launch the appeal to raise €120,000 through GoFundMe.

“The life Niall lived…is one of kindness, humour, cinema, the arts, and deep creativity,” she wrote on the page.

“He’s a filmmaker, an independent and curious thinker, a great lover of life and travel, and the curator of his own destiny.

“Niall is a singular creature, a person who goes out of his way to find the good in even terrible circumstances, and because of his spirit, his family and friends are determined to help him find the good in his.”

Zita revealed: “Niall's friend, Tama, called to tell him she had a brain tumour, and had only a few weeks left.

“Niall isn't the kind of man to stay put in Ireland when his friend is facing terrible news. So he boarded a flight, even though flying during the pandemic terrified him, and headed for California.

'The life Niall lived…is one of kindness, humour, cinema, the arts, and deep creativity'

“And while he was here, comforting his friend of over 20 years, he found himself in a terrible predicament.

"Since Niall's accident, his friend Tama has passed away (he doesn't know yet).

"He was one of her last visitors, and she was so worried about him, his recovery, and the distance he was from his little home in Dublin, where he was happy and safe.

“She said in her last days, ‘Nially must be so scared. I wish I could be with him’.

“It's a poignant irony that Niall rushed to her side when she had terrible news, and now he's facing terrible news of his own, with a very long road home.

“Niall has a long road of recovery ahead of him,” Zita added. “In my first conversation with his doctor, she said, ‘It's a life changing injury’.”

Zita detailed the various medical treatments he needs, including orthopaedic surgery for his knee and elbow, occupational therapy to learn to live his life on his own again, speech therapy to regain his singular voice, and physical therapy to regain his independence.

“But most concerning, of course, is the recovery he'll face from his brain injury,” she said.

“The brain is a tricky thing, and his doctors are measuring his potential recovery time in months and years, not days and weeks.”

Zita said Niall’s parents Jim (from Tipperary) & mother Irene (from Co. Claire) “are just some of those waiting eagerly to have him home”.

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