WHEN Jonathan Monaghan told doctors he was suffering from a headache and pain in his eye, he was told he had a virus and prescribed paracetamol and antibiotics.
Shortly afterwards he was struck down with a catastrophic brain condition that robbed him of his ability to speak and the use of his right arm and leg.
The tragic events unfolded in August last year while 16-year-old Jonathan, of Devon Close, Stapenhill, was on a fishing holiday with relatives in Northern Ireland.
What doctors first believed was nothing more than a virus was in fact an abscess that had ruptured inside the Paulet High School pupil’s brain.
Jonathan, now 17, has since undergone brain surgery and extensive therapy. He remains a hospital inpatient and uses an electric wheelchair to move around.
His grandmother Maureen Stone, who has raised Jonathan since his mother Marie’s death eight years ago, told the Mail: “He nearly died. I thought I could handle death. I thought I could handle anything, but when I got to Ireland and saw him, I realised I could not.
“I went into another room just to cry so he wouldn’t see or hear me. He nearly died in intensive care.”
Jonathan finished studying at Paulet High School in Stanton Road, Stapenhill, last year and was due to begin an engineering course at Burton and South Derbyshire College in September.
But his world was turned upside down on August 5 when he was discovered on the floor by his uncle at their holiday accommodation in Northern Ireland.
Jonathan was rushed to the local hospital before being transferred by helicopter to Belfast, where he underwent emergency brain surgery.
Miss Stone, 68, who has raised 13 children during her life, said: “Jonathan had to go in for a six-hour operation. He came out but then had to go back in again for surgery on his brain.
“While in intensive care, he could not speak. He lost his speech and the use of his right arm and right leg. His arm, speech and leg were dead.
“In the surgery, his head was split down the middle so they could take all of the fluid out, but it caused a lot of brain damage. In June or July this year, he may need even more surgery.”
After spells in two Irish hospitals, Jonathan was transferred to the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham in November. He was then moved to the Royal Derby Hospital several weeks later.
Despite an initial bleak prognosis, Jonathan is now on the road to recovery. Physiotherapists are helping him to regain the use of his limbs and he is learning to speak again.
Miss Stone said: “The speech and physiotherapists have got him talking again now. He can now copy what you say and he understands everything you say. There’s also movement in his leg and they are still working on his arm. He is much happier now because he has a wheelchair and he can move around.
“He can hold a cup at the moment, they have taught him to wash himself with one hand and he can shave himself. I hope and pray he will be able to walk again.
“It is tragic that this has happened and that it’s happened to a really fantastic boy. He is a very good-mannered boy.”
If Jonathan’s treatment goes to plan, he could leave hospital this summer — a year after he was first admitted.
Miss Stone said: “Jonathan had only seen a doctor four times in his life.
“He complained he had a headache and pain in his eye. He was diagnosed with a virus and given antibiotics and paracetamol. Two days later he was crying because of the pain in his eye, but we were told it was safe for him to go to Ireland shortly afterwards.”
Brain abscesses are estimated to kill one in 10 sufferers but survival rates are improving all the time. They most commonly affect males aged under 40.
Miss Stone said: “I would like to say a huge thank you to all the hospital staff who have looked after Jonathan and got him to where he is now. They deserve medals for what they have done.”
Miss Stone also paid tribute to the Irish authorities that supported her during her four trips to the nation to visit Jonathan in hospital. She had to keep returning to England in between visits to look after another of her grandchildren, 13-year-old Natasha.
Miss Stone added: “I want to thank his uncles, Jimmy and Mick. They never left him. And Paulet School have been so supportive as well.
“I love Jonathan. The worst part was coming back to leave him there, knowing he would be on his own. I know there is a long way to go but we are getting there and, believe me, I have never prayed so hard in my life. He is a young boy with all his life ahead of him. He will recover. He has youth on his side.”
JONATHAN Monaghan was a happy teenager who loved fishing and planned to study engineering at college. But his life was turned upside down by a rare brain condition which struck while he was on holiday in Northern Ireland last summer.
Below is a timeline that charts how he came close to death before fighting back against his illness.
JULY 2012: Jonathan begins to complain of pains in his head and eye. Doctors say this is probably due to a virus and he is told to take painkillers and antibiotics. Jonathan is advised it will be safe to travel to Northern Ireland for a fishing holiday with relatives, including uncles Mick and Jimmy.
AUGUST 4: Jonathan arrives at his Northern Ireland holiday accommodation but complains of feeling tired so a bed is made up for him and he goes to sleep.
AUGUST 5: He is found on the floor by one of his uncles. He is conscious but his body is described as limp. Jonathan is seen by a doctor who sends for an ambulance. Jonathan is transported to hospital, but he is then flown to Belfast for emergency surgery on his brain. His uncles sleep outside the hospital in a car while Jonathan remains in intensive care.
EARLY NOVEMBER: Jonathan is flown to the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham.
LATE NOVEMBER: He is transferred to the Royal Derby Hospital, where he remains today while he undergoes extensive physiotherapy and speech therapy.