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Swimming helps to restore sense of normality for Galway man left in a wheelchair after fall

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Swimming is a therapeutic sport for many – but for one Galway man, being in the water is more than that; it’s empowering.

Sam Fleming is 36 years old and suffered a brain injury after falling off his bicycle close to his home in Kinvara when he was 20 years of age.

The severe head injury he obtained from this accident has resulted in Sam becoming a strong advocator for cyclists to wear helmets – something he wasn’t doing on the day of his accident.

Sam’s injury has had a monumental effect on his life. He is unable to walk and has been wheelchair-dependant since his fall. Several other brain functions have also been affected by the accident.

His brain injury “has screwed life up big time,” he said. After the accident, he lost his independence and now requires assistance for day-to-day living; “a wife would be good,” he joked.

While a wife would surely be a welcome addition to Sam’s life, it’s his family and friends who have helped him through tough times and stuck by him so far.

Following his accident, Sam has joined the Octopus Swimming Club in Kilcornan and attends pool sessions every Monday evening.

It was at these sessions that he got to know John Griffin who has been working with Sam since his accident.

“It was through [John] that I joined the club around five years ago and I’ve been a constant feature since then,” said his son, Dualta Griffin.

The Octopus Swimming Club was established by Mary Arrigan Langan in October of 1981. Its aim is to provide a facility where people who have a physical disability can get in the water and enjoy the benefits that it brings.

The club uses the Halliwick concept, which was designed to teach people with a physical disability to swim, helping them to become more independent in the water.

It was developed in England in the 1940s by a man called James McMillan, an engineer in fluidmechanics.

Mr McMillan’s main aims when developing this concept were participation and independence. Willingness to lose balance and knowing how to regain that balance and stand up again are core elements.

Halliwick is a structured programme that teaches participants to be happy in the water, helping them to gain some confidence and perhaps learn new skills.

The benefits are enormous, allowing freedom of movement in the water, giving participants a sense of independence while also giving them all the benefits of being active and partaking in a sports activity.

For Sam, the activity has given him the “feel good factor”. He has made many new friends along the way, but most importantly, he has started to walk in the water completely unaided.

“I feel I’ve benefited greatly from the Halliwick swimming – [I’m] more confident in the water. I can take a few steps unaided and that’s a great feeling for me,” Sam explained.

“It’s inspiring to see the others progressing as well. If it weren’t for Mary Arrigan, the organiser, and all the volunteers, people like me would have very little chance of ever being in the water,” he added.

Participants at the club experience a huge sense of empowerment when in the water. The activity boosts the cardiovascular system, helps swimmers control their balance, breathing and lung capacity while also strengthening the musculoskeletal structure.

Furthermore, once a person masters the art of swimming, there is no limit to the number of new activities they can undertake, from sailing and canoeing to water-skiing, scuba-diving and snorkelling.

The activity is also beneficial to the volunteers who get a huge sense of satisfaction from helping another person reach their full potential, while also benefiting their own lives.

“My time at this club has been very special to me. Spending time with Sam and the friends I have made, the craic I have had and the skills I have developed during the time at the club so far have been very special to me,” said Dualta Griffin who has recently started studying Physiotherapy in Limerick, largely thanks to his experience with the Octopus Swimming Club.

“I am constantly amazed by people’s progress in the water and have been lucky to see someone, who wouldn’t let go of the railing when they arrived, start swimming a basic stroke whilst completely submersing their head.

“I believe that everyone involved gets a lot from being part of the club and part of this is due to their determination to improve their skills in the water whilst enjoying their time there,” he added.

Mr Griffin stressed the importance of helping people to develop skills in the water and said this has been very rewarding for him, resulting in a desire to work professionally in this area.

“I am now studying Physiotherapy in UL and I have the people in the club to thank for giving me the belief in myself and passion to pursue this career path and I look forward to spending time there again during my holidays,” he said.

If you are interested in finding out more about the club, contact Breda Ansboro on 086 358 9365 or visit www.octopusswimmingclub.com. You can also like the Octupus Swimming Club on Facebook.

CITY TRIBUNE

Council rows back on ‘reduced delays’ projections for Kirwan junction

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Motorists have described it as ‘a disaster’ and a former mayor has said the project gave very poor value for money, but Galway City Council have this week asked the public to be patient with the revamped Kirwan junction, close to the Menlo Park Hotel.

Since the four-arm signalled junction opened early last week, motorists have complained of traffic queues stretching back to the Quincentenary Bridge and Corrib Park.

And now the Council has rowed back on its consultants’ claims that the junction would increase capacity by 15% and reduce waiting times by 25%.

Former mayor and local taxi driver, Cllr Frank Fahy, told the Galway City Tribune that given the negative impact of the junction on traffic, the €5 million spent on the project represented ‘very poor value’ as regards taxpayers’ money.

“I will admit that the junction is now safer for pedestrians in that they can hit a button to give them a safe crossing, but since it opened there have some very serious traffic tailbacks,” said Cllr Fahy.

However, City Council Acting Director of Services for Transport, Uinsinn Finn, told the Galway City Tribune that the new junction needed time to ‘bed in’ with a familiarisation process.

“The main objectives of this project were to make far safer for pedestrians and cyclists to negotiate, as well as making it safer for motorists too, without impacting [negatively] on the traffic flow,” said Mr Finn.

He added that since it opened – and over the coming few weeks – data on all aspects of how the junction was functioning would be compiled which could involve changes to light sequencing, lanes and peak traffic flows.

One motorist who contacted this newspaper said that the daily “nightmare” journey from the Barna Road to the Headford Road during the morning peak traffic time had added up to 40 minutes to his journey time.

“The two lanes are regularly gridlocked from the junction, back the N6, over the Quincentenary Bridge and back to Corrib Park.

“In the mornings, it’s now easier to go down Taylor’s Hill and into town, past Eyre Square and up Bohermore to get down to the Headford Road.

Councillors were told by consultants in 2017 and again in 2018 – when they voted to proceed with the changeover to a junction – that average delays would be reduced by 25% and junction capacity would increase by 15%.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Man hospitalised following Eyre Square assault

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Gardaí have appealed to the public for information into an assault in Eyre Square last weekend which led to a young man being hospitalised.

The victim of the assault – a man in his early 20s from the city area – suffered a cut to his knee and may have had a substance sprayed towards his eyes.

Following the incident – that occurred close to the Eyre Square taxi rank shortly after midnight on Saturday night last – the victim was taken by ambulance to University Hospital Galway.

It is understood that the victim was released later that morning and has made a full recovery. This week, Gardaí are poring over CCTV footage in an effort to try and identify the perpetrators of the assault.

The assailants are understood to have fled on foot after the incident towards St Patrick’s Avenue on the east side of Eyre Square.

A Garda spokesperson has appealed for anyone who was in the vicinity of the taxi rank on Eyre Square between 12 midnight and 12.30am on the Sunday morning (Saturday night) of July 25 last, and who may have witnessed the incident to contact them.

(Photo: the assailants fled on foot towards St Patrick’s Avenue off Eyre Square)
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Council turns down controversial phone mast plan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune –  Galway City Council has refused an application by Eircom to erect a 12-metre telecoms mast in a housing estate in Knocknacarra.

The local authority turned down the company’s application for planning permission to install the structure in the heart of Drom Óir over concerns that it would create a visual obstruction in a residential area – and would have a detrimental impact on property prices.

Eircom had also sought retention to keep a concrete foundation for the mast in situ after it was forced to abandon works earlier this year, amid protests from residents in Drom Óir and Leitir Burca. This was also rejected.

City planners issued the company with a warning letter in April to cease works after contractors on site drew the ire of nearby residents, who accused Eircom of seeking to install the mast ‘by stealth’.

A total of 26 letters of objection were submitted to the Council from residents of the two estate.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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