Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Positive future after family's nightmare

Life is full of relative values. None of us would like to experience a year like the one just past which the O'Neill family who live near Randalstown have lived through.

Two of their children were knocked down and critically injured on this day 12 months ago as they alighted from their school bus. It was every parent's worst nightmare.

One of the children, Mary, hovered for weeks at death's door and seemed certain to go through it when her life support machine was switched off, but miraculously survived.

Her brother Fintan has made a tremendous recovery from his injuries which included numerous broken bones, but Mary's injuries were life-changing.

Yet today their parents Amelia and Kevin speak not of their trauma but of their happiness that their children are still with them. That was a future they were uncertain of in the immediate aftermath of the accident.

It is only when you face into the abyss but step back that you can fully appreciate what is really important and that what others may see as a burden is a load that you will gladly bear, for it is less than it might have been.

Another emotion the couple express is gratitude and it is one that they spread widely. Firstly it goes to the medical teams who saved their children's lives. We hear daily of the strains in the health service and how it is crumbling, but that must never cloud the incredible skills of those who work in it and their compassion for their patients.

Often they go the extra mile to help those in need, like the nurse who sat with the couple during their darkest hours well past the end of her shift just to bring them comfort.

And then there was the local community, the people who turned out in their droves for prayer meetings at the local GAA club, which recently was accused of shunning former member PSNI officer Peadar Heffron who was seriously injured in terrorist bomb attack, but which on this occasion was certainly not found wanting.

Although Mary now attends a school for pupils with special needs, she has been invited back on a couple of occasions to meet her former classmates. And most heartening of all are Mary's young friends, who continue to stand by her and include her in their plans.

The family will continue to face trials but thanks to the medical teams, the community support and their own resilience, they look to the future with greater optimism than they once dared.

Belfast Telegraph

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