Belfast Telegraph

Relief as meningitis coma teen Ruairi O'Neill wakens

By Allan Preston and Brett Campbell

Prayers were answered yesterday for a Crossmaglen teenager who had fallen into a coma after contracting meningitis.

Less than two weeks ago 18-year-old Ruairi O'Neill was celebrating winning his second Armagh county championship with the village's U21 GAA team.

But on Tuesday night he was fighting for his life in the intensive care unit of Royal Victoria Hospital.

Facing an anxious night, many gathered at the local St Patrick's Chapel to say prayers.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was among the thousands wishing him a speedy recovery.

Yesterday the club announced on social media: "Good news! Ruairi has today regained consciousness, is awake and talking. He is out of danger. Attaboy Ruairi!"

Gerard Rush from Crossmaglen Rangers said he was overjoyed at the news.

He added: "I just got a phone call from his father Kevin to say they had taken him off the ventilator, he had regained consciousness and they were moving him out of ICU. The family are delighted he's made it this far.

"(But) I'm sure he's not out of the woods yet."

Monika Marchlewicz of the Meningitis Research Foundation said: "We are so pleased to hear that Ruairi is responding well to the treatment in hospital. Christmas should be a happy occasion for families but sadly winter is the peak season for this life-threatening disease."

She urged vigilance over the festive period, especially for families with babies, toddlers and young adults.

Earlier this month 22-year-old Jade (Danielle) Smith from Carryduff died after contracting meningococcal disease. And last week Sinn Fein adviser Naomi Baillie was admitted to hospital with the same illness.

So far in 2016 the Public Health Agency has been notified of 20 cases of confirmed meningococcal meningitis compared with 28 cases over the same period in 2015.

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