A Bhoy called Joseph…
The Doctor exhaled and turned to the exhausted looking teenager who sat waiting patiently for his verdict. ‘Joseph, I’ll be straight with you,’ the Doctor said quietly, placing a manila folder on the desk in front of him, ‘Your illness hasn’t responded to the treatments we’ve tried here. We only really have one more avenue to explore.’ Young Joe McColgan breathed in deeply, he’d been through so much already. The Doctor continued, ‘There’s a hospital in Glasgow which is leading the way with stem cell and bone marrow transplantation. It may well be your best hope as they can move quickly.’ Then, almost as an afterthought he added… ‘and we do need to move quickly.’ The journey to Glasgow was nothing new to the young Derry boy as it was home to his beloved Celtic Football Club. He had managed over to a few games and felt at home in the city. What lay ahead for him though was a difficult and painful course of treatment for his illness. His relapse back into the grip of Leukaemia was a crushing burden to bear but Joe faced it with that stoic courage the Irish are famous for.
The Beatson and Yorkhill… Yorkhill and the Beatson, back and forward he’d go as his treatment went into full swing in Glasgow. On a bright afternoon as he lay on his bed exhausted by it all his duty nurse entered the room. ‘I hear you’re a Celtic man?’ she smiled. ‘I am indeed,’ said Joseph, ‘Best club on the planet.’ She regarded him, ‘My husband is Celtic daft too. He knows one of the old players. I’ll ask him to get the ex-Celtic player to give you a call.’ Joseph nodded a bit mystified about who the former Celtic player could be. ‘That’ll be good, thank you very much,’ he smiled. He was shown much kindness in Hospital and came to see his key staff as friends. Over the next few days the nurse’s husband would pop in and have a chat with Joseph as he tried to regain his strength from the debilitating effects of his treatment. On a rainy Tuesday he took out his mobile phone and answered a call. He spoke for a few moments before handing the phone to Joseph. ‘Someone wants to speak to you.’ Joseph took the phone, nervously and glancing at the name of the caller on the display screen was taken aback. It read: Bertie Auld.’ He put the phone to his ear, his nerves jangling, wondering what you say to a Lisbon Lion! ‘Eh, hello?’ he mumbled in his Derry accent. The Celtic Legend replied in that cheerful Glaswegian tone of his, ‘Hello Joe, this is Bertie, Just letting you know I’ll be up to see you tomorrow afternoon. I hope you’re keeping well pal.’ Joseph was in shock, he was absolutely flabbergasted, a Lisbon Lion had just called him paI! Bertie then joked in that typical way of his, ‘Oh and another thing; I’m gonna break yer bloody legs when I’m up.’ Joe laughed, well aware of the tigerish midfielder’s reputation from his playing days. ‘That’ll be great, Bertie!’
The following day Bertie Auld did indeed come to see Joseph in the hospital. Joseph had butterflies in his stomach all day waiting for him to appear. He entered with Chic Charnley who introduced himself to Joseph as ‘The man who ruined Henrik Larsson’s debut for Celtic!’ Joseph was elated as Bertie Auld sat by him and told him tales of his playing days with the magical Lisbon Lions. Joe listened spellbound to tales of the legends all Celtic fans learn from their fathers and grandfathers. Now here he was listening to a Celtic great who was there through all the glory years. For the young Derry bhoy this was the stuff of dreams. Bertie presented him with the Lisbon 40th anniversary pin which was given to the players to mark the great occasion. His final gift was a replica Lisbon shirt on which he had written…’To a Bhoy called Joseph. from Bertie Auld.’ Joseph couldn’t believe his eyes, A Celtic legend had taken the time and energy required to organise all of this for an ordinary Celtic supporter. After they’d gone he felt a warm glow. He looked again at the signed shirt and pin badge Bertie Auld had given him and smiled. God how he loved being a Celt!
PostscriptThe courageous Joseph McColgan endured the bone marrow stem cell treatment in Glasgow and I am happy to report has made a full recovery from the illness which threatened him. The operation and other treatments took its toll on this brave young man but he is a fighter. The sheer joy he felt when Bertie Auld and Chic Charnley visited him in hospital gave him a much needed boost at a time when he needed it most. It is to their eternal credit that the Celtic family from Joe’s nurse and her husband through to Bertie and Chic were willing to go out of their way to help a fellow Celt. The Derry bhoy has been through much but has come out the other side stronger and more convinced than ever that Celtic is indeed; A Club Like No Other.
You can follow Joseph on Twitter by going to.... @joemccolgan88