Nothing holds back determined Mary
‘ANYTHING is possible, you just have to want it bad enough. Things have moved on and you really can do whatever you want if you try. As the saying goes - if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again!’
Determined Kilcoole woman Mary Napier, who was sent to Hungary for three weeks in 1989 after a massive fundraising drive for treatment to overcome the restrictions of cerebral palsy, has recently been conferred with a degree at UCD in Social Science.
Over IR£30,000 was raised in the community almost 20 years ago for the intensive physiotherapy treatment at the world famous Peto Clinic and less than two years later, formerly wheelchair-bound Mary was walking with the help of a stick.
Students from Mary’s school, St. Thomas’, were amongst those who pulled out all the stops at the time to help a fellow pupil’s dream come true. They ran no-uniform days, hill walks and discos to help the 15-year-old on her way to Budapest.
Kilcoole’s Fr. Eamonn Cotter was the chairman of the committee and the driving force behind the project, along with other dedicated members, including Dan Hayes, Nick Eogan, Phyllis Barry, Jim Brophy and others.
Her mum and dad Josie and Jackie and brother Martin from The Green in Kilcoole all made the trip with her and were all overcome with joy when she began to be able to walk for more than a few steps after the incredible journey.
‘If it means I can walk a longer distance at the end of it I think it will be worth it,’ said Mary at the time. Not only can she walk, but she has been able to drive since she was a teenager and got her licence when she was in fifth year.
Doctors had told her as she grew in to her teens that hope of the young woman walking again was slim, but Mary’s belief in herself and the encouragement of her family, friends and neighbours as well as the intensive treatment at the Peto Institute proved them wrong, as did the work of her physiotherapist and remedial gymnast, local man Alan Priestly.
Mary was always in mainstream education, having sat in on classes at the local primary school from as young as two and a half for just a few hours every day.
Following graduation and a successful Leaving Cert and Group Cert, she decided to study at Bray Senior College. From there she went on to work as a manager at Dublin South FM in Rathfarnham, where her considerable organisational skills and personable way of dealing with other people became apparent.
A number of years as a community employment supervisor followed, where she coordinated the work of the participants with a view to helping them progress in to full time employment.
She enjoyed the job immensely, but was dealt a disappointing blow when she was made redundant as part of a series of cutbacks in the sector in 2003.
Characteristically, however, Mary faced the development head on and saw it as an opportunity to try something new rather than a setback in her life.
Following an access course for those returning to college, Mary began the degree programme in UCD, with the help of an assistant who would sit with her at lectures, take notes and email them to her in the evening.
She said that going to lectures is the most important part of the experience for any student. ‘I rely particularly on memory,’ she said, adding that the delivery of the lecturer is more useful than notes.
In terms of accessibility, she said that UCD is improving but there are some small changes still to be made, for example heavy doors in some of the older buildings.
Although short on free time, with commuting and studying to handle, Mary still manages to let her hair down and meets up with friends for the occasional drink in either Booterstown or Greystones.
She can also be seen cycling her three-wheel bike around Kilcoole, Greystones, Bray or even Glendalough. ‘That’s a form of enjoyment as well as exercise combined,’ she said. She also enjoys working with computers and surfing the net, as well as designing web sites, one of which she built for Dublin South FM during her time at the station.
Mary’s proud parents and brother were by her side when she received her hardearned degree at UCD last Monday, but the road does not end there as she will soon be undertaking a Masters Degree in Social Science in the health and illness