Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

I forgive player who put me in coma, says brain-damaged footballer

The Fermanagh GAA footballer left brain-damaged after he was injured during a match in San Francisco says he forgives the person who left him in a coma.

Mark McGovern (23) arrived home to Belcoo, Co Fermanagh, on Monday night after an epic 18-day journey by land and sea -- his serious head injuries mean he is not allowed to fly.

The Fermanagh man had only been in the city five days when he was severely injured after an off-the-ball incident in the game between the Ulster GAA Club and the San Francisco Celts last June.

He was rushed to San Francisco General Hospital and placed in an induced coma.

His family were told he might not live because his injuries were so severe.

His mother Josie, father Danny and sisters Connie, Helen and Grace along with his uncle Bernard and girlfriend Jessica made the long trip to maintain a vigil by his hospital bed.

However, Mark has made an incredible recovery with the help of doctors and physiotherapists in San Francisco.

The first leg of his 5,000-mile journey was from the west coast to New York by train, followed by a 10-day boat journey to Southampton.

Next, there was a long drive to Holyhead, another boat trip to Dublin, and the road journey to his Belcoo home.

Getting home again was a great relief to Mark, but he admits he will find it difficult to adapt to normal life.

"It will be hard to get back to my normal life. I am hoping to start in rehab next week in Belfast or possibly a private clinic," he said.

Mark said he was shattered by the news that he would not play football again.

"It is very tough to take, and very frustrating. My therapist was using a ball during rehab and at one point I could not even throw or kick it and I would just be sitting there looking at it. I felt like cracking up.

"What he done to me, well he done it, I forgive him. I do believe he never meant to put me in the shape he put me in," he said.

The former footballer, who won't be able to work or drive for at least a year, is making steady progress now but said his balance was still causing him problems. "I am walking but my balance is dodgy, so I have to get back to golf as it helps my balance a little bit," he said.

"That's my first thought. I know I can't play football any more, so it's given me time to concentrate on golf," he added.

The Fermanagh man issued a big thank-you to his girlfriend Jessica, who stayed at his bedside for four months, and his family and friends for their support.

He said he was looking forward to meeting his friends, particularly his teammates from the Belcoo O'Rahilly's club in Fermanagh.

Mark's medical costs have already exceeded $1m. A special website has been set up to raise money for his treatment at www.support4markmcgovern.com.

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