Sunday, December 26, 2010

Grainne Hogan Fitzmorris Reveals the Big Secret: "The Big Easy!"

Hello Friends, and Family!

We're close to the end of 2010 (thank God), and this update is once again over due.  There doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day!  So, the exciting news is...... Brian will be coming State Side (USA) for his Stem Cell Treatment.  In ALL the research we did (and there was tons), we always leaned towards Stem Cell Facilities that advertise; China, Germany, South America.  We always did a search for "stem cell treatment for ONA (optic nerve atrophy), and we were guided in the directions of the countries above.  One day, a friend of mine (who's a nurse) said "G, I work with a girl, who's possibly having Stem Cell Treatment in Covington".  Covington is a pretty small town, about 35 minutes drive from New Orleans, Louisiana (where I live).  I had heard that TCA or Lifesource existed, but I thought it was just research.  WRONG!  If you go to www.tcaway.com, you'll find out that they are a research facility, but they're also a treatment facility.  


I called immediately, and spoke to Erica.  Erica was so incredibly in tune to what our needs, hopes and aspirations were for Brian (and the rest of us, of course), that I silently cried throughout the conversation.  The facility in Covington is the ONLY facility in the world with the technology to take either your own, or donor stem cells, incubate them, and multiply them to upwards of 50 - 100 million stem cells.  China was guaranteeing upwards of 5 million cells (which seems like a lot), but when you compare it to between 50, and 100 million, there's absolutely no way we're taking "the kid" to China.  As you can imagine, we've all kept it on the down low, because when Brian gets something in his head, he's relentless.  Sean and I made an appointment to visit Lifesource, and I'm pretty sure neither of us slept Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday night.  Our 45 minute journey across Lake Pontchartrain (the longest bridge over water in the world, at 24 miles) seemed never ending.  We've driven that bridge hundreds of times, but this time was different.  We barely spoke to each other (a miracle in itself, if you know me).  I think I was holding my breath for 24 miles.  You know those "special days" when you remember every single detail?  I remember what I was wearing, what purse I was carrying.  I remember how my heels hurt, but I didn't care.  I remember thinking "here we are, and what if Dr. Lasala doesn't like us".  "What if he says "all the way from Ireland, that's a long way to travel for a maybe".  I had practiced all the "conversation stoppers".  I practiced crying (because that's so hard these past months!!!).  I thought, "I'll start crying, and there's no way he'll say "no" to us".  Sean thought I was crazy (or, crazier).


I'd never met Erica before, but when I did, I hugged her like she was my best friend.  She invited us into a room with an examination table, a sink, and a couple of random chairs.  We chatted a little about the weather, and then she said "Dr. Lasala is running about 10 minutes behind, so sit tight".  Sit tight?  I would have sat on a bed of nails, ALL day, just for the opportunity to plead our case.  When Dr. Lasala entered the room, he smiled. Sean and I both stood up, and introduced ourselves.  He was shorter than I anticipated.  I suppose because I'd heard so many good things about him, and our research had always, always been so impressive, that I expected him to be 8 feet tall.  His smile was genuine, and when he sat down, I immediately felt like I was going to cry.  Not because things didn't look so positive, but because I knew he was settling in for a conversation.  In the 20 minute meeting, he never once said "your brother", or "the patient".  He always said "Brian".  You have no idea how important that was to us.  When people (some of them, friends) say "how's your brother", I just want to scream "his name is Brian" (like everyone in the world should know about this incredible boy).  Silly, I  know.  Dr. Lasala was fascinating.  He could tell we had researched Stem Cells.  He knew we knew the job of Stem Cells, and what their potential was.  I could tell he appreciated how much we studied their value to our bodies.  


We told Dr. Lasala that we were willing to give anything a try, not once, but multiple times, because we knew that there were no guarantees.  He smiled when we said "you'll love Brian, he's amazing", and he said "of course".  He always said things like "this is what we'll do", "this is how we'll infuse Brian", "Brian won't be in any pain", etc., etc.  So, from the beginning, we knew Dr. Lasala wanted to help.  He had a difficult time connecting Brian's loss of eyesight with Brian's injury, so he spoke to us about consulting with a Neurological Ophthalmologist, who's had success with treating children with Optic Nerve Atrophy, using Stem Cells.  Who knows what she might be able to do for Brian.  He looked at Brian's initial report (from the morning he was admitted to A&E, in Queens Medical, Nottingham).  He said "it's a miracle Brian is with us".  His injury was so severe, that it was almost unbelievable he didn't die.  We talked to Dr. Lasala about how fit Brian was. He said "Brian is determined, no?".  "YES", we said.  Anyone who knows Brian knows that to be true!


When Dr. Lasala opened the door to leave, I wanted to hug him, but I was afraid he'd think I was a freak, so I held back.  Erica had a big smile on her face, because secretly she knew Dr. Lasala was interested in helping Brian.  She couldn't tell me that prior to the meeting, but she had a good feeling.  I hugged her instead!  


Nevis knew we were meeting with Dr. Lasala, because I needed her to get all Brian's medical documents, and medication lists.  Jonathan knew just the day before, because he sent me a desperate email about how we had to hurry up and take Brian to China, because he was just so heartbroken, and felt helpless.  I had to let him in on the "secret", just to calm him down.  Shane knew because he was going on a much needed holiday to India, and he called me a couple of days before take off, to say he was feeling so guilty for leaving Brian, that he was considering canceling his holiday.  I had to tell him something good.


Sean and I left Lifesource after about 2 hours.  The sun was shining, and there was a little breeze, and I thought "if anyone can help Brian, it's Dr. Lasala, and this team".  I felt warm and fuzzy all over!


Then, started the phone calls, the tears, the story, the joy, the anticipation!  Telling my father was one of the greatest joys I've ever experienced.  Hearing Nevis tell my mother in the background, was another great joy.  It's all still a "maybe", but it's so much more positive than China.  Don't get me wrong, the facility in China has helped thousands of people, but it's not the right place for Brian right now.  We've found facilities in South America, Germany, Russia.  But Lifesource is the ONLY facility with the technology to grow the cells to such an incredibly large quantity.  The more, the merrier!  


So, Brian will be coming to New Orleans again.  He loves New Orleans.  He spent a summer with me in 1997, and then came here again in 2005, when I took him to see his idol, Aretha Franklin (another great joy for me).  What a fabulous night at the Super Dome.  Little did we know, Hurricane Katrina would rip New Orleans apart just 2 months later, and I would lose everything materially.  Brian mourned for the loss of my little house, and my "things".  He cried at the idea that my beloved City was in tatters, but he sent me a CD of Annie Lennox "I've Got A Life", and wrote the loveliest note about coming out of the ashes, and moving forward.  I see that note every day, and now it reminds me of Brian.


Brian is on the schedule for an infusion, but it may take until the end of January, or some time in February.  I'm busy getting my house ready for the onset!  It's been a wild ride!  


For now, Brian is busy getting himself healthy.  He's using the exercise bike at least once a day.  He said "when you work out, the blood flows through your body much faster, and that will really help me with the Stem Cells".  He's so smart it's ridiculous!


So, that's the big "secret".  No longer a secret now, of course!  


While it won't be as expensive for Brian to come to the US (because I live here), the treatment, and travel will be just as costly.  To all of you who have donated (time, money, etc., etc.), THANK YOU!  Brian is worth every single penny.  We're always overwhelmed by your generosity!  We may not tell you how much we appreciate you're time, effort, resources, but we think about it in our sleepless nights, in our drives to work, in our quiet times, when nobody sees us pray to keep going.  So, "THANK YOU" all.


If you think of a good fund-raising event, let me know, and I'll put it on Brian's website - www.iheartbrian.org.  Every single penny is accounted for (thank you, Ciara).  Nevis is the contact person in Limerick, but you can email, call, or Facebook me too.  The latest fund-raising information (and success stories) are on Brian's website, so don't miss those.  If you want to drop Brian a note, you can mail it to: 82 Russell Court, Ballykeefe.  Limerick. Ireland.  He would love to get "fan mail".


Brian can't see, but in his "minds eye", he see's everything.  Last week he said; "when I can see again, I'm never turning the lights on".  Really?  You're killing us, kid!


My family is grateful every day for even the opportunity to thank you ALL.


Much Love,


Hogan Family xxxx

And many thanks to Brians latest donors!
Robert C., Bondi, NSW, Australia - $30.00
Amy F., Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, UK - $20.00
Mark O., Hove, UK - $20.00
G. & E. Talbot (Mrs. Talbot's Tasty Foods) Metairie, La., USA - $75.00

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Latest Update from Nevis Hogan!


To everyone who has donated via this website, your donations are HUGELY appreciated. Brian's sister Nevis contacted me with some others to whom highest accolades must go, who have arranged fund-raisers for Brian on their own also!

Hi Nevis here! A lot of money has been donated from here if you could mention them on the blog? Geraldine Wallace and Frances Moylan raised 1000 euro. Joanne Fitzgerald and Sharon O'Flaherty and all their friends who raised over 3000 euro from a skydive. NRG Fitness in Cork raised 700 euro in a 16 mile run to Cobh from Cork City. Lynda Geary Zebo who ran a coffee morning in Cork; Elaine McKeon from Cork who raised 1000 euro and who has been a fantastic support to Brian and introduced us to NRG Fitness. Brian's secondary school have to date raised over 2000 euro and are continuing to raise funds. Bank Of Ireland Roxboro Limerick ran a coffee morning two weeks ago. To all and others I may have forgotten to mention Thank you thank you! Brian's loving your book! Xx

To everyone, our deepest gratitude! I can tell you that it won't be long before all your generous contributions of time, money and heartfelt effort will be put to good use for Brian! Stay tuned, and be sure to pass this website on to your friends!

And don't forget - till the end of the year, all donors contributing $30 or more get a free copy of "Found Wanting"!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

More progress!

Many thanks for our most recent donors (well, all our donors)! Brian is doing well, and looking forward to his stem cell therapy. Still can't give you all the details, but there's big stuff in the works - and all thanks goes to the generous donations from folks who have worked so hard on Brian's fund-raisers and those who have donated through this website! You are the ones who are making a real difference in Brian's future.

One thing that's transpired which is a bit of a shame is the lack of support from the English government. Brian had been living and working in Nottingham, U.K. for nine years when this tragedy occurred, paying taxes and contributing to the country's welfare. However, he has not received one penny of disability or unemployment payment from them! That makes your donations all the more important to him and his family. 
Brian would love to hear from you. I just sent him an audio copy of my recent book to listen to.You can listen to it for free also by clicking here. http://www.bookrix.com/_mybook-seanhfitz_1292315067.5472478867 Chat with Brian about it!

A huge thank you to:
Mark B. (second time donor!), Sheffield, UK - $25.00 
Michael T., Nottingham, UK - $442.00 
Emily T., Nottingham, UK - $10.00
Mark R. (second time donor!), New Orleans, La., USA - $22.22
Rebecca M., Nottingham, UK - $150.00

And as I stated in my previous post - all donors contributing $30.00 or more get a free copy of "Found Wanting"! Michael T., Rebecca M., and Mark B. - expect it in the mail! Thanks and enjoy!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Big things happening!

First off, Brian and his family want to express a HUGE thank you to Mark Bowen for his nighttime bungee jump in Brian's honor! His daredevil feat raised $600.00 towards Brian's treatment! You didn't have to do it, but you did! Many thanks!

Second, I can't tell you all the details right now (it's still sort of secret) but keep watching this space for big news about Brian and his future plans! Let's just say good stuff is in the works! But toward that end, we need to raise at least $10,000 more! Yes, we have a goal! I'll fill you in soon, but for the moment, spread the word to anyone you can! Personal donations, corporate sponsorships, government grants are ALL welcome! If you can send word of this website and Brian's situation to just one or two people, it will help enormously for Brian's stem cell therapy! And remember, stem cells are the ONLY hope for Brian right now. Every bit of medical wisdom we've been able to glean (and that's a lot!) offers no other option for his conditions. 

Brian is doing well. He remains in good spirits and is solely focused on getting better! Recently I published a book titled "Found Wanting" about a serial-killer paramedic (yes, it's fiction). I'm in the process of recording it as an audio book for Brian to listen to. He's been talking about it to everyone! 

So, speaking of my book, here's the deal: For every donation through this website for $30 (US) or more from now till the end of the year, you will receive a FREE copy of "Found Wanting"! Just make sure you include your address in the PayPal donation form so I know where to send it! And remember - ALL of Brian's contributions go to him; I'm sending you a copy of my book at MY OWN expense! None of your donation will be used to "buy" a copy. What a great deal! And don't feel bad for me, I'm happy to do it for Brian - his treatment is foremost in our minds right now! (If you need to convert your local currency to US dollars [PayPal can be persnickety], there's a converter way down at the bottom of this page.)

That being said, again a huge thank you to:
Mark B, Sheffield UK - $600.00
Matthew A, Nottingham, UK - $50.00

All the best to everyone, and thanks!
-Sean Fitzmorris

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A big thanks to our fund-raisers in Ireland!

Brian's sister Nevis Hogan wanted to pass along enormous thanks to all her colleagues at Eircom for raising €150 for Brian and to Ciara Storan Chawke for raising €175 in the Limerick mini-marathon! Your generosity and help is is apppreciated more than you can know!


Brian is doing well, home to Limerick for a while after a stay in Dun Laoghaire for some intensive physical therapy! There's stuff in the works, but more details to come on that later. In the meantime, keep watching this space, and tell everyone you can about it! Click the "Tweet this page" link on the right to spread the work quickly and easily on Twitter!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fwd: Jumping for Brian (In The Dark)!

Hi!

Brian's good friend, Mark Bowen is doing a sponsored bungee jump to help raise funding for Brian's upcoming Stem Cell Treatment.  The big day is October 2, and the jump takes place at MAGNA, in Sheffield.  Oh, and it's in the dark! 

If you'd like to sponsor Mark, please do so, by sending him an email at markbowen1@me.com

You can also donate by clicking the "DONATE" button! Make sure you reference the donation "Bungee Jump".  We'll be sure to post your name in lights (but only if you want us to)!  As soon as I get photographs from the event, I'll put them on Brian's Facebook, and on Brian's website!

What a great opportunity to support Brian's cause.  I love my brother, but I'm scared of bungee jumping, and the dark!  There would have to be a good shot of Irish Whiskey before and after the jump for me! 

Thanks so much to Mark and his family! 

Much love,

Hogan Family



Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Quick thank you...

Make sure you read the latest update from Brian's sister Grainne below! Also, many thanks to Brian's latest donors!

Philip T, Leicester UK $100.00
Ingrid H, Franklinton, La, US $50.00

Thanks so much for your generosity!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Brian Hogan Jr. Update - September 14, 2010 "Big Spender".

 "Big Spender".

Hello, Family & Friends!
I figured today would be a good day to send an update on Brian, because he's having a good day today.  Last week was not so good for him, which, in turn, made it not so good for the rest of us.  He was inconsolable all week long. He cried from one end of the week to the other.  Nothing really made him happy.  He kept saying "I just miss me".  Then he said "mammy, I'm broken - can you fix me".  Talk about breaking your heart wide open, and then throwing hot coals on top of it.  I thought last week would never end.  Thankfully, it did.  The whole family, sans myself, spent time with him last week, so I know it wasn't all bad. 

Dad gave him 10 Euros, because he hasn't had/needed money for anything, but he mentioned how he was a little embarrassed about not being able to at least offer to pay for coffee or a pastry (like we would let him pay for anything), so he had his whopping 10 Euros.  Hey, Big Spender!  I wonder if we should have offered him money early last week!  We would have cleared our bank accounts into his hands, if we thought it would have made a difference.  

Today, he told me the story of how he had everyone laughing and singing in the cooking class.  He said a woman was dancing and laughing so much, her prosthetic leg fell off, whizzed passed his ear, and hit the wall.  Now, the accuracy of that story has still to be determined, but he got so much pleasure out of telling it, that it hardly matters if it is in fact true.  He made "Irish soda bread, from the Avoca Cook Book", and had a warm slice of it, topped with cheese.  He said it was "fabulous".  I would have given anything to have shared a slice with him.  Although, Brian isn't the best at sharing his food.  He sometimes eats like it's his last meal.   I wonder if it has anything to do with being in a coma.  "Food for thought", pardon the pun!

He also spoke about a Physical Therapist, who did a session with him, and how she explained what every muscle did while she was manipulating it. He was impressed with her dedication.  He's like that himself, really. If you get him on the topic of something he enjoys; gardening, cooking, renovating, being a Quantity Surveyor, he can explain anything in 3D.  He's incredibly descriptive, and always was.  I remember hearing Brian laughing as he read "All Creatures Great & Small", and he would repeat the stories in such detail, that you really thought you were watching the Vet deliver a calf!

Recently, the family took a trip to Nottingham to box up Brian's house.  The Letting Agent found two lovely girls to rent Campbell Grove.  According to Dad, there was so much stuff in the house, that it was almost impossible to get everything boxed up in 3 days.  Thanks to Ann, and Joan, Vijay, Arun, and Pam, it was all done.  Special thanks to "big brother, John" for storing some of Brian's things until we can pick them up.  We would have been lost without all of you.  It was hard to imagine all of Brian's lovely things going into boxes.  It was harder to imagine the house full of his belongings, but without him in it.  Who's kidding who, it's all hard!

If you'd like to visit him, go for it.  Prepare to cry with laughter (save the real tears for when you leave, because he senses everything).  If you'd like to call him, his phone number is 087-655-4411.  If you call from the US, he's 6 hours ahead, and the number is 011-353-87-6554411.  If you're calling from the UK, the number will be 0044-87-655-4411.  He would love a quick "hello".  He's sure to tell you the same story a couple of times, but if you react like it's the first time around, he'll be thrilled with you!

Intense rehab is really good for Brian, but he does get lonely.  To wake up 4 months after a night out, and not be able to see, or move, must be awful.  Knowing that you all care for Brian so much, keeps him going, even through the tough times.  In some ways, things haven't really become easier.  We still need a little push now and then.  My parents & brother's & sisters are simply amazing.  But, they'll tell you themselves, they get days when it's easier to just stay in bed.  But, Brian doesn't get that luxury, so they keep going.  We have friends, and family that experience the highs and lows with us, and without all of you, this would be close to impossible.  So "thank you".

I promise that the next update will be shortly behind this one.  

Take good care of yourselves.  We're grateful for you every day.

Much love, and gratitude,

Hogan Family; Brian, Phil, Siobhan, Grainne (me), Nevis, Brian (the hero), Jonathan, & last, but not least, Shane!

xxxxxxxx

Remember, you can find Brian at www.iheartbrian.org, or www.iheartbrian.com, or www.iheartbrian.net.  He's like Visa; Everywhere!

P.S.  One picture is of Brian and Jonathan taking a nap.  We keep Brian on the inside, in case he decides to roll off!  The other picture was taken in Ann & John's back yard, on a lovely, sunny, June day.  It was a magic day, with lovely friends.  XX


Friday, August 27, 2010

Brian's New Internet Presence!

Whenever you're around Brian, his presence tends to be the center of attention, and it is never undeserved. Therefore it's fitting that Brian have even more of a presence on the internet. Starting today, you can get to this page simply by typing "iheartbrian" into your web browser address bar! Brian now has the following domains:

This will make it easier to find Brian online, especially by search engines like Google & Yahoo. More presence means more traffic and hopefully more donations for Brian to help him regain his vision! Brian and his family are planning on going to Qingdao, China for his stem cell therapy in January, 2011. He needs as much support as you can muster! Remember, even if you can't donate, you can always forward this page to others and get the word out! And now you can do it using any of the new web addresses above!

Speaking of donations, a huge thank you to Brian's latest donors! 
Renee P, Barrington, IL, USA - $50.00
Jackie S, Limerick, Ireland - $20.00
Sheila K, Madisonville, LA, USA - $50.00
Maureen O, Greenlawn, NY, USA - $200.00

Many heartfelt thanks for your generosity! 
Keep spreading the word!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Brian Hogan Jr. - Update - "On The Road Again" August 17, 2010

Friends and Family,
I just realized I need to update everyone on "the kid"!  Ok, I tell a lie, I realized it last week, but last week was crazy, so I put it off until now. 
Brian had a little seizure last Sunday, August 8th.  He was running a fever, and his temperature spiked really quickly, causing him to have a "febrile" seizure.  That just means it was temperature related.  With a brain injury, it's important to avoid fever, so we'll know the next time!  Poor Jonathan was driving Brian at the time, and he got a really bad scare, but they're both doing well now!
Brian spent a couple of hours in the Emergency Room, but was released once they figured out he had a mild chest infection.  From what I hear, he was quiet the "pepper" in there, so I'm sure they were only too happy to release him!  Shane was brave enough to call me and tell me what happened.  You know when the conversation starts with a full disclosure - "everything is fine now, but Brian spent the last couple of hours in the ER", that your day is completely turned upside down.  I always say to my family; "I'm just a day way, if I have to come home".  Look, if you're not within 10 minutes of where you want to be in an emergency situation, you're just too far away. 
Several weeks ago, Brian went to Dun Laoghaire (a little outside Dublin), to be evaluated for intense rehabilitation.  The facility is where Brian would have gone, had his attack occurred in Ireland.  They were really pleased with his rehab in Limerick, so basically turned him down as an in-patient.  It was neither good, nor bad news, just a little disappointing.  Then, Friday, my parents received a letter from Dun Laoghaire, telling them that "Brian was accepted to their in-patient rehabilitation facility", and that they should have him there by Monday (yesterday).  Talk about roller coasters of emotion!
If there's one thing that Brian is, it's determined.  Hard work never scared Brian.  He could turn his hand at anything, and if something needed to get done, Brian would always figure out a way to do it.  So, this opportunity is a fantastic one.  He will be kept busy from one end of the day to the next with all types of therapies.  We're thrilled, but a little apprehensive at the same time.  Right now, Brian is only 20 minutes from family, at any given moment.  Dun Laoghaire is 2 hours away.  Fortunately, we have friends who don't live too far from where he'll be, so he'll be kept busy.  From everything we hear, he'll be in bed early, and asleep early, due to all the workouts!  Maybe he'll stop calling me at 6, 7, 8am (that's 12, 1, 2am US time) for a "chat".  When the phone rings in the middle of the night, it's enough to scare 10lbs off your body.  And you can't pretend to be anything less than thrilled.  One night, he had me singing "Wild Thing" at 2am.  I hope the neighbors didn't hear it!
By now, most of you know that we've pretty much settled on China for Brian's Stem Cell Treatment.  We've researched all the options, and the facility in China is where we're heading.  The facility comes highly recommended by a several people.  The facility has been written about in the well respected Medical Journals, so we're confident this is the right place for him to go. Of course, there are no guarantees, but we're going to try everything we can.  You can keep an "eye" on Brian through his blog at http://helpbrian.blogspot.com for additional updates too.  Please feel free to pass this update to anyone and everyone.  Awareness is key, and every contribution, no matter how small, is fantastic.

Here's a link to the website for Dun Laoghaire: http://www.nrh.ie
I'm not sure of all the visiting times, but I know that during the week, they start at 6pm, and go to 9pm.  Brian gets tired in the evenings, so if he falls asleep on you, don't be offended!  It'll be your chance to "escape", and visit again!  The weekends are more open, but I'm not too sure of the times.  I couldn't find them on the website, but you can call the facility if you'd like to know for sure. 
If you'd like to send Brian a card or letter, you can send it to the following address:
National Rehabilitation Hospital,
Rochestown Avenue,
DĂșn Laoghaire,
Co. Dublin,
Ireland.
Brian would absolutely love to hear from you.  "Fan mail" has slowed down, but now that he's away from home, this is your chance to send him a little encouragement!  Thanks in advance!
We're not done with our fundraising, of course.  We would love to hear your ideas, if you've had success with fundraising in the past.  If you have any ideas, shoot them my way. 
Thanks to every single one of you for your love and support.  The first year was tough, and we're hoping it was the toughest, but we don't know what's around the corner for "the kid"!
I promise I will send another update soon. 
Much love to all our friends & family, old and new!
Hogan Family xx

Friday, August 13, 2010

China Bound

Well, after much deliberation, Brian & his family have decided on a treatment center for his stem cell therapy! It's Beike Biotech in Quindao, China. He's planning to go there in January, 2011 for a six-week stay for his therapy, which will involve six to eight injections of stem cells. 
Why Beike? Despite many warnings of stem cell scams in China, this facility comes with a good reputation, well respected in the medical community. There is also the testimony of fellow Irish Valerie Dolan, who also suffered from optic nerve atrophy and had good results from Beike. No one expects everything to be perfect after his therapy; after all, Brian does have other issues involving his brain trauma, namely his difficulty moving his left side. But we have high hopes that some restoration of his sight will help motivate him to continue progressing with the rest of his therapy. 
Brian spends at least an hour a day on the cycle trainer at Beech Lodge. He is able to travel around a bit in the car and of course has a wonderful singalong with the radio. And of course, the stories. He keeps everyone in stitches with his many hilarious stories and jokes! 
As you can imagine, travel to China from Ireland won't be cheap. Neither will the treatment, at $30,000. But now that we have a definite goal, your donations mean more now than ever! Please, if you can make a donation, do so - no matter how small or large! Even if you can't donate, forward this page to anyone you can. Spread the word!
Speaking of donations, many thanks to Brian's latest donors:

Julie F., Staffordshire, UK - $50.00
Katrina W., Cardiff, UK - $15.00
Martina A., Ballingarry, Ireland - $20.00
Christine E., Sheffield, UK - $5.00
Amy F. Staffordshire, UK - $40.00

Many thanks to each of you that have contributed to the restoration of Brian's sight! Keep spreading the word! 

Monday, August 2, 2010

Decision time!

It's been a little while since updating. We've been busy researching various stem cell treatment centers for Brian. We're probably going to try to get Brian his treatment and worry about paying for it later. This means that your donations will be more important than ever! It's like jumping into a pool without knowing if there's water in it! 

We've just about narrowed it down to three places - China, USA or Dominican Republic. All will be a difficult trip for Brian, and all will cost a minimum of $30,000 just for the therapy, not including transportation and accommodations. 

So far this website has raised about $2000.00 for Brian. You can help him right now by making a donation, however large or small! I spoke with Brian the other day and he was "flying high" with the news that his treatment would not be as expensive as we first thought and that results may conceivably be noticed within a few days of treatment! Given that this talented, brilliant young man has had his life turned inside out by being confined to a wheelchair and completely unable to see, you can imagine how any good news is a beacon of hope! You can make that beacon shine brighter by donating! Even if you cannot donate, you can spread the word on Twitter, Facebook, Stumbleupon or any way you can think of. Use the links on the right-hand side of the page to let others know that they can help help too!

Thanks to all who have already given so generously! Let's keep up the good work!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Slowly but surely... Brian's first year

It's hard to believe, but it's been one year ago today (19 July) that Brian was first injured. He's made some amazing progress. If you've listened to him singing in the YouTube videos (http://to.ly/5zjm and http://to.ly/5zjo), you know this firsthand. But he has a long way to go. Your support, whether it's through donations, or visits to Brian and his family or just keeping up with this blog is enormously appreciated and keeps Brian and his family going day by day.
Research for Brian's treatment is going slowly, but steadily. I've gotten several emails and phone calls from both facilities and patients who have received stem-cell therapy. Several different people I've talked too have been most helpful and hopeful for Brian's recovery. Many thanks to all who have responded!
Brian has yet to see the Neuro-Ophthalmologist in Dun Laoghaire, so once that happens, we'll be in a better position to know exactly where to turn next! 
Some of the interesting things I've found out:
It may not necessary to go all the way to India. Promising results might be as close as Europe or North America!
One patient's father said treatment for his son cost around $30,000 - so we may be much closer to getting Brian's therapy than we thought! 
Based on others' experiences with stem cells, results might begin to be noticed within just a few days of treatment!

Still, Brian has a long way to go. Below is part of Grainne's (Brian's sister) email update on Brian. If you'd like to receive Grainne's updates in your own email, just let me know and I'll forward your address on to her.

And last but not least - many, many thanks to Brian's latest donors! 
Rob P, Deventer, the Netherlands $10.00
Beverly C, New Orleans, La. $26.00
Lea B, Nottinghamshire, UK $75.00

Here's Grainne's update:

Dear Family & Friends,

It's hard to believe that today, July 19, 2010, is the first anniversary of Brian's attack.  We've all come so far, and we've watched Brian come even further.  Getting a phone call the morning after Brian's attack is something you just never prepare yourself for.  When you live away from "home", you always dread the phone ringing early in the morning, but nothing prepares you for bad news – nothing.  I dreaded today, and I dread tomorrow, but a year has flown by. For that, we're all grateful!

Brian has been in Ireland since May 8, and he's doing well in so many ways.  I spent the last two weeks in June with him, and he's amazing.  He's now engaged in Physical Therapy 4 times a week, but that's not enough for Brian; he uses the bike pedals at Beech Lodge, for over an hour every day.  He's involved in several types of therapy, including music therapy.  This is his favorite one, as most of you know he's a huge music fan.  Brian had a tracheotomy for over 3 months, so his voice has changed, but it hasn't stopped him singing. 

As time goes on, we're hearing more and more about the severity of Brian's initial injury.  He suffered several serious strokes in the early stages of injury, which is the reason for his left side paralysis.  The "experts" said, "he'll never have use of his left side again, but you should see him ride those pedals!  He's working hard on his upper left side too, but it's taking a while. 

While I was in Ireland, we hosted a Fundraiser for Brian.  This was strongly encouraged by media, and friends, as a way for people to show their support for Brian.  We're knee deep in research for Stem Cell treatment, but there are so many places, and with every success story, there are some horror stories, so we're not about to jump into anything without knowing as much as possible.  Brian's blindness is the worst for him (and us, of course).  Not a day goes by when he doesn't say, "do you think I'll ever see again"?  It's like someone stabbing you with a spoon. 

The Fundraiser was a blast.  We had planned for about 200 attendees, but we're pretty sure the turn out was more like 450 to 500! What a great night!  Of course, Brian stole the show, over and over.  To be honest, the turnout was a true testament to my parents.  If you knew how much they do every single day, you would wonder how it was at all possible.  My whole family works hard every day at taking care of Brian, but my parents are responsible for more than I can begin to explain.

Dealing with the paperwork side of Brian's condition is a nightmare.  Thought Brian lived and worked in the UK for over 9 years, the UK denied Brian any type of disability.  We couldn't even get Brian into the Irish system until he was physically in the country, so we had to start the process in May, and it's only now starting to come together.  We're a long way from getting it done, but it's a constant flow of paperwork after paperwork, after phone call, after meeting. 

We've set up a blog for Brian, so we'll be putting these updates on there. It's a blog that you can comment if you'd like.  Feel free to forward the link to your friends, or you can put it on your facebook or twitter, as a way to show support for Brian, and his ongoing rehab. 

Now, more than ever, Brian would love to hear from you.  He's having a really tough time, and it's always good for him to hear words of encouragement.  Even if you don't know Brian, you can email, or comment.  We all have something to say, so if you want to say something – come on, say it!  Just because Brian is no longer in England, it doesn't mean that he doesn't miss it.  Nottingham is where Brian chose to live.  He fell in love with Nottingham, and built his whole life there.  Out of sight, out of mind, is easy for us, but for Brian, he's trapped inside his own body and mind right now, so if you can take the time to write a few words of encouragement – thank you, thank you.

If you'd like to use the "donate" button on Brian's blog page, go right ahead.  Every single penny goes into Brian's Trust account, and it's all for Brian's medical care.  Stem Cell treatment is not covered by Brian's insurance, but we're not about to tell him "sorry, we can't afford to try EVERYTHING possible to give you your eyesight", so if you can help, go for it! 

I'll keep the updates coming.  They're a little less frequent, but it's only because progress is slow.  It's slow, yet steady, and moving in the right direction, and that's what matters. 

From my very grateful family to you and yours – thank you, thank you.

Much love,

Brian Sr., Phil, Siobhan, Grainne, Nevis, Brian Jr., Jonathan, and Shane.  xxx

Monday, July 12, 2010

Spreading the word!

Many thanks to Dr. Alan Glazier (@eyeinfo on Twitter) for helping to spread the word on his website, eyeinfo.wordpress.com! He's put up this special post on his blog dedicated to Brian and the research we've been doing to get the particulars about stem cell treatment! It's people like this and all of you reading this page that will help Brian and others like him to regain their vision and live a more normal life after such debilitating injuries.

On behalf of the Hogan family, myself and especially Brian Hogan, Jr. - Thank you, Dr. Glazier!

The work continues!

Spent the last couple days researching stem cell therapy. We already know the basics of what is involved, the difficult part has been trying to find a facility or hospital that actually performs the procedure. 
If you're reading this post and you are involved in stem cell treatment, or you have had stem cell treatment yourself, I'd love to hear from you! Brian has an appointment in Dun Laoghaire this month with a Neuro-Ophthamologist, so I sure some of our questions might be answered then, but if not, then Brian needs your help with information!
Who performs stem cell treatment for optic nerve atrophy? Where will Brian need to go to get it? How much does it cost? What is the most likely outcome for Brian? How many people have been treated and what was their outcome? How can we contact these people and facilities?
Post your replies in the comments, or feel free to email me at sfitzmorris@gmail.com.

Also, much gratitude to Brian's latest benefactors:
Chris P, New Orleans, LA $50.00
Richard of sturtle.com for posting this fantastic article about Brian and spreading the word! (@sturtledotcom on Twitter)

Thanks very much! And if you have any info on the specifics of stem cell therapy mentioned above, email me or post in the comments!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Another Treat from Our Man Brian! To the Moon

A Special Treat: Preacher Man

Thank you for your help!

More donations for Brian have been received and are deeply appreciated! Brian's latest benefactors:

Louise M, Sydney, Australia $100.00
Lauren M, New Orleans, La $80.00

Your continuing donations are being put to good use in saving for Brian's therapy!

It's taking a lot of work researching stem cell treatment for Brian's blindness, but your donations and support are helping make it all worth it! Every penny is going to Brian. So far, this website has raised $1884.65! (after PayPal fees). Thats €1492.20! Thank you for your help! By the way, the fundraiser Quiz Night raised over €10,000 for Brian! We expected about 200 people, but over 500 showed up for a great night! Many thanks to the Strand Hotel for their donation of the Shannon Suite for the party! By the way, your bartenders are the BEST!

Brian is doing well. He's kept busy with his physical therapy, music therapy and frequent visits from family and friends. He's able to get himself out of the car on his own, and can walk a bit too! His mind is a sharp as ever; if you go visit him, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the stories he has to tell you! He'll keep you in stitches laughing! Brian also has a great friend at the Neuro Rehab in Bruree, Dave South. He's been wonderful in keeping Brian company when the family can't be there. He'll be reading this to Brian, so Dave, good man yourself! You are very well spoken of in the Hogan house!

In other news, we're still waiting for bids on Luka Bloom's guitar! See the photos of this terrific instrument below. If the idea of an auction scares you, then think of it as making an offer! Remember your offer goes to help Brian get his sight back! And if you make a ludicrously high offer, we can throw in the shipping! Own a bit of musical history!

Again, thanks for all you've done for Brian. Please use one of the links in the right-hand column to alert others to this website via Twitter, Facebook, Digg, StumbleUpon or any of the social networking sites. Keep spreading the word!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fwd: More Guitar pics! You can own Luka Bloom's guitar & help a wonderful person!

Oops, got delayed in posting more pics! Sorry! Luka Bloom's guitar is a 20 year-old Alvarez acoustic guitar in PERFECT condition! Bid on it now to acquire this piece of musical history. Auction goes till the end of July (see the next post to view the details of the auction). Along with owning this one-of-a-kind treasure, you'll be helping Brian to regain his sight! Everybody wins!


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Auction for Luka Bloom's signed guitar to benefit Brian Hogan!

Grainne & Sean finally arrived back in America after a very good visit with Brian in Ireland. Here are the photos of Luka Bloom signing his guitar he donated for Brian's fundraiser. The guitar didn't sell, so it's being offered for auction here online. Luka specifically said that the guitar was to be auctioned for no less than €1500.00, so we're starting the bidding at that. If you need to convert your local currency to Euros, there's a currency converter at the very bottom of this page. There will also be more photos of the guitar posted later on today. If you'd like to find out more about him, here's the link for Luka Bloom's website - listen to his fantastic music!

A few words about the guitar: it is in MINT condition! Not a ding or scratch anywhere and the sound is absolutely... well, musical. The carrying case is also one of the attractive features - it's been all over the world and has the most beautiful scars to prove it!

To bid silently on the guitar, send an email to sfitzmorris@gmail.com, not via the PayPal button on this page. I'll update the current bid daily. Be aware that shipping is not included in the bid, but if you want to calculate the shipping yourself and choose your own method of shipping, we'll be happy to ship it whatever way you want. Just be aware that the guitar will ship from Limerick, Ireland, so choose a method that is available there. We will notify you by email of the price of shipping if you would prefer us to handle all the shipping arrangements. Alternately, you can drive on over and collect it yourself (the address will be provided to the highest bidder by email). Since this is a fundraiser for Brian Hogan, there can be NO REFUNDS on your winning bid.The auction will continue for one month and will close at midnight Monday, 1 August, 2010, UCT (Greenwich Mean Time). The winner will be announced on this site and via email at that time. If the funds for the winning bid have not been received within 48 hours of the close of the auction, the next highest bidder will be notified and that will be the winner.

And of course, outright donations are always accepted via the PayPal button on the right-hand side of the page.
Good luck and spread the word!


Luka Bloom signing his guitar for Brian and a lucky winner!


Brian's sister Nevis Hogan and Luka Bloom.


The signed guitar in its case (perfect condition!)


You can be the highest bidder on this terrific and beautiful instrument!


Some of the prizes at Brian's fundraiser, 24 June, 2010.


Brian Hogan, Jr. with Dennis from Nottingham, his brother Shane Hogan and brother-in-law Sean Fitzmorris at the fundraiser 24 June, 2010. You can help him lose the dark glasses and see again! Isn't that worth your donation, no matter how large or small?


Monday, June 28, 2010

More donations to thank you for!

I said we'd have the photos up of Luka Bloom's guitar; sorry, just haven't had a chance to get it done yet. But we should have it up by tonight!
In the meantime, your continuing donations are so greatly appreciated! Last night I visited with The Man Himself, and Brian was overwhelmed at how much generosity has been shown to him from this website and the Quiz Night Fundraiser. He is making impressive progress. Last night he was showing us his sit-ups & ab crunch exercises and we practiced a few new stretching techniques. Brian continues to impress us with his memory - it's come back with a vengeance. He was reciting poetry from memory; we asked him all the trivia questions from the Quiz Night Fundraiser and he got nearly all of them right! A few hours later, we asked him the trivia again and the few questions he had gotten wrong earlier, he knew all the answers to the second time around!
His memory of people, places, events, conversations... almost anything comes back to him with near-perfect clarity - almost as if he had never been hurt.
But of course, he was hurt. It's heartbreaking that with his fabulous memory, he still can't see. Or that such a brilliant mind is trapped in a body that needs help doing even very basic activities.
There is hope for Brian - that's the whole point of this website. You can be a part of it by making a donation, no matter how big or small. Even if you can't donate, you can help Brian by forwarding this website to everyone you can.

Our most recent donors (Thank you so very much!):
Megumi I, Mansfield, TX $100.00
David H, Basel, Switzerland $100.00
Joanne P, Whangarei, New Zealand $60.00

All our donors are amazing people. You will always have a special place in our family.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Amazed at the generosity!

Brian's fundraiser last night took in just under €10,000! Some fantastic prizes were given out, and there were some silent auction prizes that went for a pretty penny! In addition, this website has recieved a net total of $1,460.70 (€1,186.41)! Great things are happening for Brian! He was in great spirits for the entire thing; they even played a recording of a couple of Brian's songs - everyone cried!
Many thanks to the Strand Hotel for the Shannon Suite, the great food and the terrific bartenders! Also to everyone who donated prizes, their time, effort and money all for Brian's wonderful cause!
Now- another matter. The fundraiser isn't over! Not all of the silent auction items made the minimum bid. Therefor the auction will be continued here! The top item will be auctioned off here online - Luka Bloom's guitar, donated and signed by Luka Bloom!


Finally, along with the folks at the fundraiser last night (at least 500 people!), enormous thanks to our lated web contributors:
Connie M, Limerick, Ireland $100.00
Sean & Tracey H, Brisbane, Australia $100.00

Many thanks! And there'll be photos of the party and the items for auction up here within the next day!


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Brain's fundraiser a smashing success!

It's nearly 3 am after Brian Hogan's fundraiser at the Strand Hotel. I can't give you a tally on the grand total taken in for Brian just yet, but I can tell you it was a good dent in it! Much fun was had by all during the quiz, many prizes were given out, and the band played on into the wee hours. And Brian himself, the Man of the Moment, held court throughout the evening!
More details & photos to come!
Also, some very valuable silent auction items were not sold, so those will be available on this site very soon! Watch this spot for some great items you'll definitely want - and every penny goes to Brian's care!

Even if you don't want or care about any of the wonderful prizes available, you can still contribute to Brian using the PayPal button on this site. Even if you can't contribute, you can still help Brian by spreading the word! Email your friends, use one of the social networking links on the right of this page, or just tell your friends about Brian and this website!
Thanks again for all of Brian's supporters!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Many thanks to Brian's latest contributors!

The response to this website is so encouraging! Your generosity is truly appreciated! Brian's fundraiser is at the Strand Hotel in Limerick, Ireland on Thursday night, June 24. We'll take plenty of photos and post them here for you to enjoy! The proceeds from this website, along with the fundraiser, will be a wonderful boost to Brian and all his family. Hope you can attend! If you can't, you can always be a part of Brian's long road to recovery by either donating or forwarding this website to your friends or social networking site. Or you could do both! Thanks once again, in particular to Brian's latest benefactors-

Jewel C, Aurora, CO $50.00
Anne G, Brooklyn, NY $100.00
Ciaran B, Limerick, Ireland $30.00
Scott A, Nottingham, UK $30.00
Brian C, Las Vegas, NV $100.00

See you at the Strand!
-Sean

Monday, June 21, 2010

Fwd: Brian Hogan Jr. Update - June 21, 2010

Grainne's latest update on Brian!-


Subject: Brian Hogan Jr. Update - June 21, 2010

Hello from the land of Guinness and Tayto!

Just a quick update, now that I've seen "the kid" himself, in his "new habitat".  Brian was really excited to "see" me.  He kept introducing me to staff and other "inmates" over and over.  I'm sure they were sick of shaking my hand.  I arrived in Ireland with absolutely no luggage, so I had been in the same clothes for almost 36 hours.  He wouldn't have minded if I visited him in a purple velor suit.

We had a great 1st day together.  His mood was fabulous.  Toward the end of the day we sat at the computer and I started reading the early updates to him, along with all your responses.  I'm not sure how I held it together, as some of those updates were quiet emotional, but I managed it.  Brian kept saying "well done, well done, now tell me who responded"!  If you think he doesn't hear the responses - wrong.  He loves all the details!  So don't be afraid to hit "reply" and tell me what you're thinking.

Most of the time Brian is in good form, but when he's sad, it's heartbreaking.  He just hangs his head and says "I'm so sad".  The only upside to him not being able to see - he can't see us crying.  I was able to compose myself until yesterday, and then the heavens opened and I thought they'd never close. 

Plans for Brian's Fundraiser are going really well.  Although we've never had any experience with this sort of thing, everyone has been fabulous.  We're not even sure if we're doing it right, but we'll figure it out!  We'll be sure to post pictures on Brian's new blog - http://helpbrian.blogspot.com/

Feel free to send that link to as many people as you'd like.  Every bit helps, and you never know who's out there that know something about the right kind of treatment for Brian's eyesight loss.  Also, you never know who's dying to leave they're fortune to someone deserving!

Will email everyone again soon.

From my family to yours - "thank you".

Much love,

Hogan Family xx


More thanks for your help!

Brian's received more donation! Huge thanks to all! We have a long way to go, probably close to a million dollars for his stem cell therapy. But EVERY donation, no matter how big or small, is a blessing to help this fine young man get his sight back! Please forward this website to everyone you can!

Many thanks to:
Mark D, Co. Kildare, Ireland $100
Lauren D, Metairie, La. $100

Your generosity will not be forgotten!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Brian & his family- together at last!

Here's a wonderful family portrait. Brian's sister Grainne is visiting from America, a chance she hasn't got often enough!
Th Hogan family, from left to right:
Shane, Jonathan, Grainne, Phil, Brian Sr, Nevis & Siobhan. And of course Brian, the Man of the Moment, front & center!

Friday, June 18, 2010

More info on donations...

Astute Brenda O advised that some international donors might have trouble donating through the PayPal system using an online check (or "cheque," for you international types). To alleviate this, try using an ATM / debit card, or a credit card, or your PayPal account (which is totally free and easy to set up). Alternatively, you can make a donation to Brian Hogan via the following account:

Bank of Ireland
Customer service: 1890 251 251 or +353 56 7757747
Account: 48010494

Sort code: 90 07 62

The bank information is also on the image of the Fundraiser flier below.

Also, Brian has received additional donations! Many thanks to
Bonnie K, Brooklyn, NY $150.00
Gregory G, New Orleans, La $100.00
Danielle D, New Orleans, La. $100.00

Thank you!  

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Many thanks!

In just three days since starting this website, Brian has received five donations totaling $254.79 (€207.11)! Thank you for your wonderful generosity! It's a great start for such a worthy individual. As of today, Brian's sister Grainne is winging her way to the Emerald Isle to visit her brother for what is sure to be a joyful reunion. His first fundraiser in Ireland takes place next week, June 24, at the Strand Hotel in Limerick (see the flyer below). If you can go, please do! A fun night is sure to be had by all! If you can't attend, you can still be part of it - the first proceeds from this website will be presented to Brian then! He and his family are already overjoyed by the generosity of people like you; let's keep it up!

The tally so far:
Mark R, New Orleans, La: $19.79
George O, Harahan, La: $100.00
Carolyn B, Fanwood NJ: $100.00
Laura W, Co. Antrim, UK: $20.00
Niamh B, Co. Cork, Ireland: $15.00

(If you would like your donation to remain anonymous, include that info in the PayPal message screen.)

Till next time- hope to see you at the fundraiser!


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

TV Interview with Brian Hogan

Watch this TV interview with Brain & his father and sister. Then come back to this page, view his photos, read his story - and realize that any contribution you make, no matter who big or how small, will make a difference for the better to all these wonderful folks!

Ireland's TV3 video:
http://www.tv3.ie/videos.php?video=22847&locID=1.65.370

Here's to Brian seeing again!

If you'd like to comment on this blog, please do so!



Brian (center) and his two younger brothers, Shane (left) & Jonathan (right).
Both spend time every day helping their big bro!


Brian at the Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare, Ireland.


At Linden Lodge, Brian's rehab facility in Nottingham. Brian and his dad, Brian Senior.


Brian out and about back in the "normal days." 



What a good-looking, happy fella!


We'll read your comments to Brian as his "fan mail"!  He loves it!

Thank you!


- The Hogan Family

Monday, June 14, 2010

Article From the Irish Examiner Describing What Happened to Brian


The article can also be found by clicking here.

Back from the brink

Tuesday, April 27, 2010
"THIS case is a tragic one after a night out enjoyed by all," wrote Detective Constable Emma Neal, as she recalled the judge’s words in the case of a young man left blind and severely disabled when a single punch rewrote his life story.

DC Neal, a member of the Anti-Corruption Unit in Nottinghamshire, Britain, had been working on Brian Hogan’s case since July 19, 2009, the date 33-year-old British man Martin Slack delivered the blow that blew Brian’s world asunder.

DC Neal had attended Slack’s sentencing hearing on February 26 last and recorded what she could for the purpose of emailing Brian’s 38-year-old sister Grainne, married and living in New Orleans.

Recalling Justice David Clarke’s words DC Neal wrote: "An incident occurred in the street where this defendant, aged 33, struck a blow at the face of Brian Hogan. It connected near the left side of his jaw, it was a punch, a single punch, not delivered with intent to do such serious injury. No one present thought it would cause such serious injury but this caused Brian Hogan to fall and bang his head on the pavement."

Less than 24 hours later 32-year-old Brian Hogan, senior quantity surveyor, from Russell Court, Ballykeefe, Co Limerick, was in a coma that lasted three months — and given a 10% chance of pulling through.

Brian had been living in Nottingham for nine years and was working for the Bowmer & Kirkland Group, one of the largest privately owned construction and development groups in Britain. He had emigrated at age 23, having completed his studies at Moylish College in Limerick and having worked for a time for house builders Michael Lynch Ltd, in Ennis Co Clare, and Kirby’s in Limerick. He was very happy with his lot, according to his father, Brian Snr, and had made a nice life for himself in Nottingham.

On the night normality went out the window, Brian was in Nottingham city centre with a bunch of friends, celebrating, at a distance, the wedding of friends who had married in the States. They had been to a club and were returning home.

Slack had been talking earlier to a couple of girls in the group and when they were heading back to Brian’s house, asked if he could join them. At the behest of one of the girl’s, Brian said no. Slack, who had consumed nine to 10 pints, pulled Brian and punched him hard to the face. Brian fell and hit the right side of his head.

"It is clear he was unable to break his fall and fell backwards hard on to the pavement," the prosecution said.

Brian lost consciousness for two minutes and his friends called an ambulance. The paramedics arrived, but Brian came to and insisted he felt ok. He got out of the ambulance, and went home. He did not report any pain, dizziness or nausea.

Some of his friends stayed over in Brian’s house that night, among them a doctor. He vomited during the night but nobody realised just how sick he was. By noon the next day, he was unconscious. At that point, friends called an ambulance and he was taken to Queen’s University Hospital (QUH) in Nottingham. Doctors found he had suffered bruising and bleeding in the brain and a fractured skull resulting from the fall.

Back in Ireland, Brian’s father and mother, Brian Snr and his wife Phil, were winding down at the close of a holiday in their mobile home in Spanish Point, Co Clare, when Brian Snr received a phone call. It was a friend of his son’s calling from Nottingham and advising them to return home as quickly as possible. She said there had been an incident and that a doctor would be calling them from QUH.

The call came to Brian Snr’s mobile before they arrived back to Ballykeefe. "It was a consultant. He told us Brian was in a coma. We got a fair shock," Brian Snr said.

Brian Snr describes the period immediately after receiving this news as "a bad, bad time".

"We contacted the rest of the family, they all rallied together and we made arrangements to travel to Nottingham. There were 15 or 16 of us and we all stayed in Brian’s friend’s house for about a fortnight, with the exception of the first couple of nights that we spent at the hospital. Everyone of us was there most of the time."

Since then Brian Snr and Phil, and Brian’s sisters Siobhan, 40, Grainne, 39, Nevis, 37, and brothers — twins Shane and Jonathan, 27 — have taken turns to be with their son and brother. His mother and father spend half the week at home and half of it in Nottingham and when they’re not there, friends living locally pitch in. Grainne has travelled from New Orleans on four occasions to be with her brother.

Brian was victim of a most unfortunate set of circumstances on the night of July 19.

"That particular night everything went against him. He hadn’t spoke to his attacker, he didn’t know him. He was on his way home when your man threw a punch. There was a doctor in his company, but she didn’t spot anything wrong. It was too late by the time he arrived at the hospital next day," Brian Snr says.

Perhaps the most regrettable element in the overall tragedy was the fact that Brian regained consciousness long enough to go home: had he remained unconscious and been admitted to hospital the subsequent brain damage he suffered may not have been as extensive, or indeed, may not have occurred at all.

BRIAN came out of the coma very slowly, but even the tiniest improvement was cause for celebration.

"He began by first moving his fingers, then his toes; his eyes would flicker. We celebrated all of these things. We took it as a sign that he was recovering," Brian Snr says.

For about a month after coming out of the coma, Brian couldn’t speak.

His speech has returned gradually, but is not quite what it was. Speech therapy is an important part of his rehabilitation. Tragically, Brian remains blind. "The loss of sight is a killer for him," his father says.

"Some days he talks about buying an Audi A4 and then you wonder if he’s forgotten he can’t see."

Brian is aware of the incident that left him where he is now, but doesn’t remember the assault itself. Despite what his family describe as "an unbelievable sense of humour" he is getting increasingly impatient with having to stay at Lindon Lodge, a 21-bed rehabilitation unit within Nottingham University Hospital’s city campus, where Brian was transferred when he came out of the coma.

His sister Nevis talks of his frustration. He can no longer read the beloved James Herriot books of his childhood, but listens to them on CD.

"It takes him back to when he was a teenager reading and the laugh he would get out of James Herriot’s stories," Nevis says.

"Every day he tells me how scared he is that he’ll never see again. He looks for constant reassurance that we will leave no stone unturned to get his sight back." At one point, he tried to bribe his sister to bring him back to his house, 7km away. "He just wanted to get out of the hospital," Nevis says. Brian was a very active young man before the assault, not so much into sport, but keen on the gym, working out three or four mornings a week before heading into work. His father believes his fitness stood to him after the assault and helped him to pull through.

Brian’s doctor at Lindon Lodge has set a release date of May 5, at which point his family must find somewhere else for him to stay and continue his rehabilitation. They have begun the process of applying for a place for him at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire.

In the meantime, they are hoping to place him in a rehab unit closer to home, in Bruree, Newcastlewest, Askeaton, Co Limerick. They are also hopeful that a Limerick-based eye-specialist — who has had success in restoring sight to patients with acquired brain injury — will be able to work his magic to improve Brian’s eyesight.

So far, progress in Brian’s overall condition has been good. "At the beginning, the doctors said the best they could do was to get him back to 70%-80% of the Brian we knew before the incident. But they seem delighted with the progress he has made. Only weeks ago he had to be lifted out of the bed with a harness. Now we can sit him up, stand him up, turn him around. The improvement is huge," Brian Snr says. Mentally, Brian has cognitive difficulties, but his intellect is preserved. This is a blessing, but also a curse. "He knows what he has lost. He talks about getting back to work. At the moment, he spends his days doing very little and that is very hard for him. He’s a very outgoing kind of fella," Brian Snr says.

He was the life and soul of the party, always positive, always had something going on whenever he came home to visit his parents in Ballykeefe. His father misses that energy. They caught a little of the old Brian during a recent brief outing from Lindon Lodge. "We went to a club, about 100 yards away. He had half a pint and he started a sing-song. I thought we would be thrown out," his father says gleefully.

Brian Snr retired from the ESB this month, just slightly ahead of schedule. He had plans — to buy a camper van and travel wherever fancy took him, together with his wife of 41 years. Those plans are now on ice, but not abandoned. "Who’s to say it won’t happen?" he asks, "just not as soon as we had planned."

This optimism is also evident in his reaction to what happened to his son.

"If the same thing happened to any of our kids in the morning, we would go along with whatever challenges it brought, and as long as we are here, we will continue to do that. We’re very positive about everything, and all of the family is united in this. There is no room for negativity."

The family is looking forward to bringing Brian home, albeit Ballykeefe will require considerable adapting before it can cater to his needs.

Askeaton and Dun Laoghaire are likely to be home in the short term, although Brian’s sister Nevis is adamant it will eventually be Ballykeefe.

"Wherever we go, Brian will be coming with us, he’s not going to be put in a home and forgotten about," she says.

"We are all very positive and looking forward to getting Brian home, we are very positive about the future and we think we can get Brian back to where he was," Brian Snr says.

This positive mental attitude is key to the family’s forgiveness of Brian’s attacker. On the morning of Slack’s sentencing hearing, they hugged the accused’s father. "He was very upset. He kept apologising for his son. He cried the whole way through the hearing, for about three-quarters of an hour," Brian Snr says.

Brian Snr had decided from the outset that anger towards Slack was a waste of energy and that his focus would be on Brian.

"Even if he [Slack] had gotten off, I don’t think it would have affected us, we weren’t focusing on that. We didn’t feel any ill-will towards him. He struck me as the kind of fellow that could easily get into a bit of bother. A lot of fellows get involved in things like that.

"I asked a police woman how bad the assault was on a scale of one to 10, and she said it was right down at the bottom."

Slack got two years, three months for his crime, half to be spent in custody and the other half in the community. He has previous convictions: one offence of common assault in 1995 where he pushed someone’s arm, and a second offence of actual bodily harm the following year when he punched someone in the face in the street. At the sentencing hearing, Slack’s barrister described his action as "three seconds of madness". He said Slack had read the transcript of a DVD prepared for the court, featuring Brian, which had caused him to break down in tears.

DC Neal, in her account, said the judge "continually made comment about how dignified, intelligent and balanced Brian had been in his DVD". Brian’s father said his son was reliant on nursing staff but still had the ability to cry "giant tears from eyes that can’t see anymore".

The judge read out one of the quotes from Brian’s DVD. "I hope the defendant is made to realise that you don’t solve problems with using violence," he said. He also read out what Brian said about the defendant along the lines of "I’m sure he has a family that love him also".

IN HIS summing up, Justice David Clarke said "a case of a single punch, in the street, is the course of violent incidents in city centres at night, punches that in the vast majority of cases, do not cause serious injury but, which can, as in Brian’s case, have devastating consequences". After the hearing, Detective Sergeant Justine Wilson said: "This incident shows how one reckless and violent act can have the most devastating consequences on a life."

As Brian’s family left court that morning, DC Neal spoke with mum Phil. "She looked over to Slack’s family and expressed that she thought she would like to speak to them. I told her that was something for her to decide on and with her usual warm and caring nature she went over and spoke to them, along with your dad," DC Neal wrote in her email to Grainne Hogan.

"I heard Slack’s dad say how sorry he was, they spent a few minutes talking, hands were shook and it was all very good-natured. Your mum later said she was happy that she had done that and I think it made her feel a lot better. Your parents are really incredibly brave and selfless people," DC Neal concluded.

Add to those qualities incredibly accepting. "I know what happened to Brian is really very very unfortunate but it is the type of thing that happens in the smallest of villages on a Saturday night," Brian Snr says.

He wants parents to be aware of this, and it is his motivation behind telling his son’s story.

"You bring your kids up as best you can, but once they get to a certain age you can no longer tell them what to do — you can only advise them.

"So advise them to stay away from the city centre, or if they go there, to get a taxi home, and to take precautions and look out for each other and if someone gets a bang to the head, don’t take their word for it that they are okay. Everyone, including Brian, thought he was fine. He was not."

* A fundraising event for Brian is being organised for June. For more details contact Nevis Hogan by email at nevishogan@gmail.com.

There are also plans to set up a Facebook page for those who would like to track Brian’s progress.



Read more: http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/back-from-the-brink-118249.html#ixzz0qrm1Oi3b