SDLP's Joe Boyle thanks to homeless woman who helped him after collapse
An SDLP councillor who collapsed in agony in the middle of a busy Belfast road has expressed his profound gratitude to an unknown homeless woman who came to his rescue.
Joe Boyle was making his way to the Europa Hotel to watch his son compete in a charity white collar boxing match last Friday evening when he ruptured his calf muscle and was "forced to the ground".
"It was terrifying," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"I had only taken a few steps when I heard a crack and felt something coming away from my leg.
"I didn't know where I was and I panicked. My main concern was to get off the road so I shuffled my way to the kerb and used roadworks equipment to pull myself up."
The distressed Ards and North Down councillor, from Portaferry, had to put in "a lot of effort" to get back on his feet.
"I have never felt pain like it. I thought the world was ending," he said.
It was during a frantic attempt to contact unreachable family members that a woman - who had been preparing to sleep in a city centre doorway - approached him to offer assistance.
"This woman came and asked if I was OK and tried to help me before my brother came out and found me," Mr Boyle explained.
"I had noticed her preparing to settle down in the doorway of the Grand Opera House before it happened and I was incredibly moved by her response.
"I tried to thank her at the time, but before I knew it she had gone."
Mr Boyle believes the woman went searching for somewhere else to sleep. The councillor was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital's A&E department where he was told that he had ruptured 90% of his calf muscle, and he was advised to rest.
"It's a small injury in the grand scheme of things and will heal itself, but I will probably need some physio," he said.
"The staff were amazing, despite being under serious pressure. It takes you to be on the receiving end of their care to appreciate that." It is expected that Mr Boyle will make a full recovery within four to six weeks, but he has vowed to carry on working. "I can be driven to council meetings and important events so I won't be completely off the radar, but I'll be taking it a bit easier," he said.
Mr Boyle now hopes to find the homeless woman who helped him in his hour of need.
"It's a face I will never forget - I owe her a lot of gratitude," he said.
"I would love to say 'thank you'. I will never forget this act of kindness displayed by such a caring member of the homeless community," he said.
"It was hugely comforting to have someone around in that moment."
Staff from PwC, where one of Mr Boyle's sons works as an accountant, had organised the boxing event to raise money for Barnardo's.
The proud father-of-three had rallied relatives to show their support.
"The joke at the end of the night was that the only injury was out in the street and not in the ring," Mr Boyle said.
"I wasn't too happy about that at the time, but it's funny now," he added.