When one Irish 30-something couple discovered that they were expecting their fourth child, they were no doubt elated. But after the mom caught a horrific infection during childbirth in 2016 – an event which saw her life hang in the balance – their joy quickly changed to despair. What’s more, their heartbreaking ordeal was about to turn horrific.
Niamh Boyle and her husband Liam hail from Dundalk, County Louth, in Ireland. Together, they juggled hectic lives; after all, as well as being parents to three boys, the Boyles also both worked as accountants.
Their lads – Ohran, Rian and Ewan – were all under the age of seven, so it is safe to say that both parents were rushed off their feet. However, that didn’t stop them from adding to the pitter-patter of tiny feet in their family in August 2016.
That’s when the couple welcomed their fourth son, Ardan. However, what should have been one of the happiest times of their lives soon became one of the most harrowing. The Boyles’ world would in fact never be the same again.
Shortly after giving birth to her newest baby boy, Niamh started to complain about a pain in her tummy. However, doctors were quick to reassure her that everything was okay. “I was told that was normal after a fourth delivery and was sent home,” she revealed to the Irish Independent newspaper.
After a few days, though, the discomfort seemed to be spreading. Niamh felt a severe pain in her elbow, and as a result, she went to the emergency room at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in nearby Drogheda. However, staff there just put a cast on her arm and prepared to discharge her.
But, for some lucky reason, someone advised Niamh to visit the post-natal ward – and it was there that the new mom got a terrifying diagnosis. It turned out that she was suffering from sepsis – a serious blood infection that can cause organ failure and death.
“By that stage I had gone into septic shock and my organs were beginning to shut down,” Niamh said. Consequently, doctors put her into an induced coma to try and stem the infection and save her life.
It was at this point that doctors gave the mother-of-four a mere 10-percent chance of survival. So, all Liam and her family could do now was sit by her hospital bed and pray. Meanwhile, Niamh – deep in her coma – was experiencing the fight of her life.
“I had nightmares about all my family dying. They were so vivid and so real,” she later recalled to The Sun newspaper of her time spent unconscious. “One time, I was screaming out for help, but nobody could hear me. When I woke up, I thought my husband and all the kids were dead.”
However, little did Niamh know that her nightmare was not yet over. When she came around nine days later, she learned that she faced the loss of all the digits on both her left hand and her right foot.
“I was in end-stage multi-organ failure,” Niamh later explained to the Irish Independent. “To keep my heart beating, the doctors were forced to give me medication that resulted in a loss of blood flow to my extremities. [So] the toes on my right foot and fingers on my left hand had to be amputated.”
However, despite her horrific ordeal, the brave mom somehow managed to remain positive. “When I was first told about the amputations, I was too sick to care,” Niamh told The Sun. “At that point, [the infection] was traveling up my leg and arm. If you look at people who survive septic shock, I’m lucky I didn’t lose both limbs.”
But it wasn’t until two months later, after she had been discharged from hospital, that Niamh began to recognize the full implications of her amputations. Once back at home, she had to learn how to do everything with one hand. And, as she soon discovered, it wasn’t going to be easy.
Still, determined, Niamh persevered. And as a result, after seven months she was back to completing her daily tasks almost as well as she had done before. Sadly, though, she was no longer able to play the piano properly – which was formerly one of her greatest passions in life.
With this in mind, in April 2017 Niamh decided that enough was enough. So, she set up a crowdfunding campaign with the aim of raising enough money for prosthetic assistance to improve her quality of life. If she could collect €65,000 ($73,000) in donations, she could purchase a state-of-the-art bionic hand.
iLimb digits prostheses are manufactured by Touch Bionics. Founded in Iceland, the firm makes world-class technologies for those with upper-limb deficiencies. The company’s prostheses feature natural proportions and utilize the wearer’s muscle impulses to trigger sophisticated finger movements.
Niamh said the prostheses would enable her to look after her children more effectively and rediscover her passions. “My aim is to learn how to hold a plec’ with my bionic hand so I can play the guitar again,” she told The Sun. “The technology is amazing, it works on muscle signals so you can move the fingers to grip things.”
Meanwhile, Niamh’s four children are equally as excited for their mom. “The kids are psyched about it. They’ve watched all the YouTube videos,” she said. “They think it’s fantastic that Mammy’s going to have a bionic hand like Luke Skywalker!”
Currently, Niamh’s crowdfunding total lies at €41,000, just €20,000 short of her target, and more money is coming in all the time. After her traumatic ordeal, it seems that people are keen to give Niamh a helping hand. If you wish to donate, go to her GoFundMe page.