THE steely determination which saw local triathlete Liam McDermott, pictured above, achieve Ironman success is evident now more than ever after being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.
The 54-year-old chairman of Omagh Triathlon Club went from attending a training camp in Lanzarote to being wheelchair-bound in the space of a few months.
Officially diagnosed with the debilitating illness in June, the popular Dromore man, who has lived in Killyclogher for the past 36 years, is determined to live his life as independently as possible.
The effect of the illness has already meant Liam is unable to move his arms.
Liam’s friends from his leisure cycle group – ‘The Antiques Roadshow’ – who have embarked on numerous charity excursions over the years, have set about raising funds to purchase two specialist pieces of equipment to help Liam maintain his independence. This includes a sponsored walk this Sunday afternoon in the Gortin Glens.
The first, costing £4,000, will move Liam’s arms, the second, costing £5,000, will allow Liam to feed himself, meaning he can remain in his own home as long as possible.
Liam said, “It is a big thing to get your head around, but you just have to be practical and pragmatic as much as possible to get on with life the best you can. I still went to the All-Ireland final and went to watch Dromore play Coalisland in the championship and was up at the Killyclogher Omagh match on Sunday, so I am still out and about. I will also be at the walk this Sunday.
“I did a half Ironman in Lanzarote at the end of October last year with no bother at all. I was training away then after that for another full Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile cycle, 26.2 mile run) in May and started to notice the power in my legs going a bit and then I started limping. I put that down to saying I was ‘lame’,” he joked.
“The limp just got progressively worse, but I continued to cycle and swim big distances and went to the training camp with the Tri Club to Lanzarote at the start of March.
“When I returned I went to the doctors. The limp continued to get worse and power started to go in my left leg in April and May. I have a chronic back problem so presumed it was something to do with that. I was still at work to the end of May but it was about then I started to need crutches.
“I was sent for MRI scans and nerve conduction tests and went to see a consultant neurologist. I was then diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in mid June. I very quickly and progressively went from being on crutches to needing to be off my feet and got this power wheelchair. It was really rapid.”
As a nurse by trade, Liam has spent his adult life providing care to others before his retirement in August after 36 years. He specialised in learning disability in the behavioural therapy department.
Now his Western Trust colleagues are providing wonderful care to him after his diagnosis.
Liam said he has also received great support from his friends at the sporting clubs he has been involved with over the years; The Omagh Tri Club, Omagh Harriers, Omagh Hospitals FC and, of course, his fellow members of The Antiques Roadshow.
“The door hasn’t stopped. I almost know too many people,” Liam joked. “The support has been overwhelming to help purchase this equipment. As I can’t use my arms anymore one machine will be able to lift my arms for me.
“The other is a robotic arm which I will be able to control with a smart phone to tell when to give me the next spoonful of food.
“Jimmy (Carrigan) was here when they came out to demonstrate the machines and said they would do a bit of fundraising to help purchase them. Then Sean (Collins), Davy (Edgar) and the rest of the Antiques got involved.
“There is a lot of expense being disabled which I never thought about. Converting rooms, building ramps and the specialist equipment.
“My daughter Sinead found these machines and hopefully they will keep me independent as long as possible. They are wonderful pieces of kit. As the prognosis is further slow decline, there is always a limited lifespan to how long I will be able to use stuff. So when I am no longer able to use them they will be donated to the Motor Neurone Association locally. Kathy, my occupational therapist, will look after them and ensure they will be used to help people in this area.”
So far, over £2,500 has been donated via a Just Giving page.
Liam thanked everyone for their support, stating he was “overwhelmed by the generosity so far”.
Come walk with Liam this Sunday in the Glens
A CHARITY walk will take place this Sunday, October 7 at 1pm to help Liam McDermott maintain his quality of life following his Motor Neurone Disease diagnosis.
There will be the option of three different walks – challenging, intermediate or leisure – starting and finishing at the main car park of the Gortin Glens Forest Park.
Refreshments will be provided afterwards in Glen Cottage on a first come, first served basis.
Liam’s close friend and colleague, Sean Collins, who is helping organise the event, encouraged as many people as possible to come out and show their support on Sunday.
He said, “Liam’s positivity is an inspiration. He has been dealt a terrible hand but he is determined to make the most of it and continue to be as independent as possible.
“If we can help him in anyway maintain that independence by purchasing this equipment we will.
“We are encouraging people to come out on Sunday for the walk and help give Liam the best quality of life possible.”
Any donations will be greatly appreciated on the day. If you can’t make it and still wish to contribute, you can donate by visiting justgiving.com and searching for Sean Collins or Walk with Liam.
This is the link to the Just Giving page: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/sean-collins-1?utm_id=106&utm_term=V7YazD9jK