ONCE upon a time, Kieran Kramer was the leader of the band - a huge presence on the wedding band circuit and a well-known, well-respected artist in Cork.
Where did his musical talent come from?
“I was lucky,” says Kieran. “My uncles were in the business. My uncle Ted Moynihan was in the Dixies, Uncle Hughie was in the Monforts and Noel was in the Dukes of Jazz.
“I remember hanging out in Shandon Street playing guitar and drums as a young fellow, and in the Gurranabraher Community Centre. Someone started a song one day and I knew the song and that was the start of it; I never stopped singing!”
Kieran got the show on the road.
“I was on the road at 16 playing with local bands and with wedding bands; the wedding gigs were great gigs for me,” says Kieran, 53, who is a dad of five.
“It was the right time. I travelled to the UK and the USA with the band Double Vision; that was great.
“My son Sam is beginning to take over from me now and my son Billy plays the guitar. The boys have got a call from Louis Walsh, so we’ll see how that goes.”
However, life as Kieran knew it changed dramatically when he got a random bite from a horse-fly which led to him contracting sepsis. He faces the possibility of being in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
He remembers the day in early September, 2020, when he was out walking his German shepherd dog, Layla; the day his life changed forever.
“I always loved walking my dog,” says Kieran. “And I liked to keep active.
“I was out walking the dog in Cork when I got a bite at the back of one of my calves in my leg. I remember thinking, ‘he got me’.”
But the horsefly, of the insect order Diptera, who are large and agile in flight, had got Kieran in more ways than one. The female species bite animals and humans to obtain their blood.
“Shortly after that day, I suffered serious back and neck pain,” recalls Kieran. “I mean serious pain. Because of Covid restrictions and the pressure on the health service, I wasn’t treated as an emergency patient. But the pain became unbearable.
“I saw the doctor on September 9 last year and I was prescribed Difene and Solpadol; that should have taken care of the pain.”
But things got worse.
“I went home to bed and don’t remember much after that,” says Kieran.
“Sam rang his sister, Laura, and said; I can’t wake Dad. I was in a bad way,” says Kieran.
“Sam told Laura I had been in bed for two days. I couldn’t walk and I had to crawl to the bathroom to use the loo. The ambulance came and I was rushed to the hospital.
“If the ambulance had been delayed another 20 minutes, I was told I’d be dead.”
Kieran woke up in the ICU unit in CUH.
“I had gone into septic shock as a result of the horsefly bite,” says Kieran.
Laura got two calls from the hospital.
“One call was that I wouldn’t make it through the night after admission to hospital, and the other call was; ‘can we take his leg?’ Thankfully, it didn’t come to that,” Kieran says.
“I still have both legs, but it was a fighting battle. I was in a coma for days.”
He went through the mill.
“I had nine surgeries,” says Kieran. “My neck was opened and bone removed. The surgeon opened the back of my calve, removing muscle that had been infected. And I had a skin graft at the back of my thigh.”
It must have been a frightening time.
“I couldn’t move from the neck down for weeks,” says Kieran.
“Then I felt a flicker in my hand. I couldn’t believe it. People were dying on the left hand side of me and on the right hand side of me. I was saying; ‘when is my turn. Am I next?’”
But help was close to hand.
“The nurses and doctors in the ICU are magic,” says Kieran. “I spent six weeks there; three weeks on a ventilator. Then I was moved to the trauma ward in CUH until February.
“In February, I was transferred to the NRH in Dun Laoghaire for 14 weeks. My goal was to walk, and to get my bladder and bowels working. I was on the flat of my back for weeks due to the infection.”
How did a simple infection have such a devastating effect?
“Doctors told me I had previously contracted Covid-19 and that the resulting anti-bodies had reacted with the toxin in the horsefly sting and caused the sepsis,” says Kieran.
“There were four cases in Belgium similar to my own. Obviously, I had no symptoms and I never knew I had Covid. I just got over it and worked my way through it.
“I’d urge everyone to get vaccinated against Covid-19. Please do.”
Kieran went further afield after being treated in CUH.
“I was in the NRH for three months. I saw cases much worse than mine and I met people there much younger than me who had their whole lives ahead of them,” says Kieran.
“I was lucky I had had such a good life and I had lived life to the full.”
Kieran fully intended to live life to the full again. His ordeal had initially left him with no use of his arms or his legs.
“During my time at the NRH, with the help of regular physiotherapy and occupational therapy, I regained a lot of my upper body movement. I had a brilliant team around me.”
There was progress.
“They say the first three months after something like this tells a lot,” says Kieran.
“I couldn’t move anything from the neck down at the very start. It was a long time before I felt the flicker in my fingers.”
The small movement didn’t go unnoticed.
“I remember a nurse ran past the room one day and she flew back and she asked me; ‘Did I see you scratch your chin?’ “I said; ‘I think you did!”
After his long stint in the NRH, where he made good progress, Kieran was allowed back to Cork to spend time with his family and friends before he returned to the rehabilitation centre to continue his recovery.
“It was tough on my eldest son, Jonathan, who is in Melbourne,” says Kieran. “He couldn’t be here with me.”
Where is home for Kieran now?
“I have a lovely apartment in Abode on the Skehard Road,” says Kieran.
“My home in Carrigaline is not wheelchair accessible so I need to find a new house. I am lucky here with Abode and having good family and friends around me.
“Colin O’Shaughnessy, at Elite gym in the Monahan Road, puts me through my paces.”
Colin pulls no punches.
“I put on a stone and half,” says Kieran. “I said to Colin, I need to go on a diet.”
Colin was having none of it.
“He told me 80% is muscle! So I can still eat the cakes!”
Kieran’s friend, Ger Mulcahy, recently hosted a fundraiser for him at his bar, The Friar’s Walk Tavern, where a lot of musical friends turned up to entertain the punters.
The severity of the sepsis has left Kieran in a wheelchair with no mobility in his right leg, little movement in his left leg, and no muscle working in his glutes.
A GoFundMe campaign was set up to help raise funds for Kieran to adjust to his new way of living and for his medical expenses. He will need an adapted car, living space adaptations, and a powered wheelchair.
“My wheelchair is out on loan from a good friend,” says Kieran.
Is his life-changing condition hard to accept?
“I’m at an acceptance stage now,” says Kieran.
“I really am. But I’m still not going to give up. I can’t get my head around ‘never’. I have to say I will get out of the wheelchair.
“My left leg works, but my right leg is knackered. But where there is movement, there is hope.
“I used to love being active and I worked two jobs. When I was confined to the wheelchair, the dog backed off around me, she couldn’t get me. She got odd with me.”
Kieran can still belt out a song, no bother.
“I’ve no interest in going back singing from a wheelchair,” he says.
“Catriona Twomey at Penny Dinners asked me would I come and sing a song for a suicide awareness night.”
Nobody says no to Catriona.
“I came in my wheelchair and I sang two songs,” says Kieran. “It was kind of emotional.”
The leader of the band, the man that never gives up, keeps striving to recover from his horrible ordeal.
“I work seriously hard at the NRH,” says Kieran.
“But with Colin, I work even harder!”
Kieran is on the up and up.
“I’m not going to give up,” he says.
“I try to keep my spirits up. I’m going to keep trying. I met a young lad from Glanmire in the NRH in the same boat as me who has less movement than me resulting from a small fall. He’s only 35 with his whole life ahead of him. My heart goes out to him.”
Kieran has a brave heart.
“I’ve had a good 53 years,” he says. “I lived life to the full.”
And he will do again.
To donate: visit Gofundme.ie ‘Help Kieran Recover from Severe Spinal Condition.’