Derry teenager loses legs after heart complications
31 Dec 2012
The family of a teenager who had his legs amputated after complications following a heart transplant, say they have been "overwhelmed" by support from the community in Dungiven, County Derry.
Hundreds of people turned out on Sunday for a fundraising walk for the teenager.
Ryan O'Connor is currently in hospital in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Ryan's aunt, Tricia Harkin, said he is an heroic figure.
"He was born with a congenital heart disease.
"In the last year his heart started to deteriorate and he did need a transplant.
"He has been in Newcastle for 15 weeks and five weeks ago he got the news that a donor had been found.
"This was all Ryan wanted, a new heart and a new start.
"But he had early complications which caused circulation problems and we just received devastating news that his legs couldn't be saved."
Ryan's mother and father are with him at the hospital in Newcastle, and Tricia is in constant touch with them.
She said: "At the moment he isn't too good.
"He has suffered a bleed to the brain and there has been no change for the last week or so.
"The doctors are hoping that the bleed might disperse itself but really only time will tell."
Tricia said the family are taking comfort from the numbers who turned out for Sunday's sponsored walk.
"It was absolutely amazing.
"There were so many strangers there, people we will probably never know but we'd like to thank them for turning out on such a bad day. We were absolutely overwhelmed.
Ryan with the Olympic torch
"Ryan is very special, he has touched so many hearts and I am looking forward to all those people meeting him.
"He has been so brave and so positive.
"Last summer he had the honour of carrying the Olympic torch.
"It was fantastic, he carried it through Ballykelly where his granny and grandad are from..
"He was quite sick at that time as well but it was amazing for his family to see him do it."