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saved by the belle Elite boxer Stephen McMullan has battle ahead to walk sweetheart up aisle after stroke

Boxer Stephen is under orders to wed after his stroke recovery

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Aimee Fitzsimons and Stephen McMullan

Aimee Fitzsimons and Stephen McMullan

Aimee Fitzsimons and Stephen McMullan

Stricken boxer Stephen Mc Mullan has to get himself fit and out of hospital to walk his childhood sweetheart up the aisle.

That's the bedside order of his girlfriend Aimee Fitzsimons, who has been with the talented sportsman since they were just 14 years of age.

Stephen, a 25-year-old heavyweight, suffered a stroke the day after his Ulster Elite final early in December.

After spending five weeks in intensive care at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital, he has now been moved to the stroke unit where his family and Aimee remain by his side, praying but confident he will make a full recovery.

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Aimee Fitzsimons and Stephen McMullan

Aimee Fitzsimons and Stephen McMullan

Aimee Fitzsimons and Stephen McMullan

"It has been a nightmare that is not ending. I have cried every single day since but I know Stephen is a fighter. We have plans for the future, they are just on hold for the minute but they will happen," Aimee told the Sunday World.

"We're not engaged, not yet! He needs to pull that out when he gets out of here," Aimee said, laughing.

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Stephen's sister visiting the hospital as a rabbit to make him laugh

Stephen's sister visiting the hospital as a rabbit to make him laugh

Stephen's sister visiting the hospital as a rabbit to make him laugh

"He has been well warned though, I have told him by the bed that as soon as he is fit we will be walking up the aisle, believe me he has been told, he knows!"

The Belfast couple met in a park in the Cliftonville area almost ten years ago. They have been inseparable since and were planning to buy their first home when tragedy struck last month.

"Stephen had his fight the night before and there was not a mark on him. He went to work as normal and was fine until about eight that night when he took a bad turn. We rushed him to hospital and we were told he had suffered one of the worst strokes possible. We don't know if it had to do with the fight or there was something underlying that the fight triggered, we just don't know, it could have been a coincidence, we just don't know, we may never know.

"But I have been telling Stephen over and over there is nothing he could have done to prevent it, he was the fittest and healthiest he could be. He has been boxing since he was 11 years of age."

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Newington ABC's Stephen McMullan (in blue) was taken to ICU following his fight against Monkstown's Charlie Boyle in the Ulster elite finals. Photo credit: Newington

Newington ABC's Stephen McMullan (in blue) was taken to ICU following his fight against Monkstown's Charlie Boyle in the Ulster elite finals. Photo credit: Newington

Newington ABC's Stephen McMullan (in blue) was taken to ICU following his fight against Monkstown's Charlie Boyle in the Ulster elite finals. Photo credit: Newington

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Stephen is only able to communicate with his loved ones by moving his eyes - up for yes and down for no.

"It's only been seven weeks so it is still very early days. He communicates with his eyes but he is still smiling and laughing, especially when his sister comes to visit - she is an eejit! She came dressed as a bunny rabbit just to keep his spirits up which he laughed at.

"He still has his sense of humour and his smile. His sister supplies the laughs and I supply the kisses and cuddles.

"I'm able to know what he needs too, if he's too hot or cold or needs something. I adore him, nobody who knows him could say a bad word about him. I'm starting to cry again now.

"He's such a lovely person and all the messages of support prove that. But Stephen is a fighter and he will win this fight in the end."

Aimee admits she is struggling without her loved one by her side but thoughts of their future keep her strong.

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The family of Stephen McMullan light candles Candles beside a picture of Newington boxer Stephen McMullan who remains in Intensive care after he took unwell following his Ulster Elite Final, a candle vigil was held on Friday Dec. 17, 2021 outside his club in North Belfast. Picture by Peter Morrison

The family of Stephen McMullan light candles Candles beside a picture of Newington boxer Stephen McMullan who remains in Intensive care after he took unwell following his Ulster Elite Final, a candle vigil was held on Friday Dec. 17, 2021 outside his club in North Belfast. Picture by Peter Morrison

The family of Stephen McMullan light candles Candles beside a picture of Newington boxer Stephen McMullan who remains in Intensive care after he took unwell following his Ulster Elite Final, a candle vigil was held on Friday Dec. 17, 2021 outside his club in North Belfast. Picture by Peter Morrison

"I miss him terribly, I live with him and his family so it is hard going to bed alone but we Facetime before bed and that helps us all.

"It's been tough for every one of us, but the support has been amazing from Stephen's family and my own family. This is going to be the biggest fight of Stephen's life but he is fit for it.

"He has his fitness, his age and his pride on his side and all of us in his corner. The physio says he can see the determination on Stephen's face, he has managed to move his arms up and he is trying to move his head, but I know, we both know, it will take time."

The 24-year-old says she would give her own life for the man she loves.

"I would give my life for him, I love him, and when he is out of there I will be stuck to him like glue. I have warned him about that too," she laughed.

You can donate to Stephen's crowdfunding page to help him on the road to recovery by donating to justgiving.com/crowdfundingstephensjourneyofhope.

paula.mackin@sundayworld.com

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