Most of us take scratching our noses for granted, but not Ian O’Connell. It took the 20-year-old three years to be able to scratch his nose again late last year.
On August 16, 2017, the sports-mad teenager severed his spinal cord when he flew head first over the handlebars of his bicycle.
The incident happened when his front wheel hit a grass-covered log as he sped down a hill in the Muckross Park area of Killarney National Park, Co Kerry.
He had just turned 16 and had, at the time, been a juvenile footballer with Spa GAA club and a hurler with Dr Crokes GAA club.
Fast forward to today and he is about to start his own show on Radio Kerry, Stand Out with Ian O’Connell. The programme will air from December 1 on Wednesday nights from 8pm to 9pm.
When he appeared on The Late Late Show in 2018, Ian explained to host Ryan Tubridy that he had told himself if he couldn’t stand up, then he’d make sure he would at least stand out. The comment earned him a round of applause from the audience on the show, after which social media lit up with comments from people impressed with his optimism and attitude to life.
He had been invited on to The Late Late Show after the programme’s researchers spotted the attention his Instagram account @ianoconnell321 — which has more than 57,000 followers — was getting. He had started posting messages as he came out of recovery, one of the first being in December 2017.
Under a photo of himself and his mother, Nora, on the roof of the Mater Hospital in Dublin, the caption read: “An injury is not just a process of recovery, it’s a process of discovery.”
The photo was taken a few days after he was taken off a ventilator.
“I remember when I was told I would be on a ventilator for the rest of my life,” he recalled.
I said, ‘I won’t be’, and they kept saying I would and explained why. I just said, ‘I’m not doing that’ — and, 80 days later, I took my first breath of fresh Dublin air without the ventilator.
He was also told he would never be able to use his limbs again.
“I just smiled at the person who told me that I would never use my limbs again, and said, ‘Watch me’,” he remembered. “When I came back for a check-up about two years later, I brought that person back to the place where they told me that and I lifted my left hand up to shake their hand. It was emotional.”
The name o