Editor's Viewpoint: All credit to TJ for turning life around
The chronic miseries of homelessness and drug addiction are wretched enough when they are encountered singly, but taken together they border on despair.
TJ Maguire, whose story we report today, has been living rough in Belfast for several years due to alcohol and drug dependency. In September 2016 he was viciously assaulted and left for dead in the city centre, and only emergency surgery in the Royal Victoria Hospital on a brain blood clot saved his life.
His parents helped him to recuperate, but he was soon back on the streets, or in jail for petty crimes.
In September 2017 his mother Kathreina received a dreaded phone call. TJ had been found unconscious and was once again on a life-support machine in hospital.
His lungs were full of fluid and he had double pneumonia, but he survived. Sadly, the all-too-familiar cycle repeated itself, and after two weeks of convalescence at home TJ was living rough again.
On August 31 he suffered a cardiac arrest and was found in the bathroom of a Belfast cafe. For 20 agonising minutes he showed no signs of life, before he was brought back from the brink.
Doctors feared he might suffer long-term brain damage because he had been starved of oxygen for so long. However, TJ confounded everyone, and he was discharged from Antrim Hospital after five weeks.
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Now he is back with his family and doing well. His remarkable story is known to us from Kathreina's account on Facebook. A mother's love shines through her words: "My son is definitely alive for some reason or other and, hopefully, with all his strength and willpower he will keep fighting, and he will make me the proudest mother in the world.
"I love you son and every day I am thankful that you are still alive and here with us, and that one day you will be able to help someone who is where you used to be. You are an inspiration, and your story will help others like you. Thank you son for making me the happiest mother in the world."
There have been false dawns in the past, and no doubt every day produces challenges for TJ and his family. This story shows, apart from the transcendental power of parents' love, that with correct care, even lives blighted by seemingly intractable problems can be turned around.
It is also a wake-up call for health and social services professionals, and the long-absent Stormont politicians, as to how easy it is for vulnerable individuals to slip under the radar.