'Our Cal was a superhero who helped save five lives'
The proud parents of a "superhero" young man whose organs were donated to five people have broken their silence to heap praise on their son and say:"We're happy those families got the miracle that we prayed for."
Callum 'Cal' Grimes (27) tragically passed away last July, seven months after he was hit by a car near his home in Rush, north County Dublin.
When his parents Mark and Catherine Grimes discovered that he would not survive after 200 days in Beaumont Hospital and 15 operations, they decided to donate his organs to people who needed them.
"We want to celebrate the life that he gave to five people. Catherine has letters that we received from some of them," Mark told the Herald.
"The first one was from a father who didn't think that he would have any more time with his own kids, he wrote to thank us. I'm happy that five families got the miracle that we prayed for, it didn't happen for us but he gave them life."
Catherine added that while it was understandably tough, she knew organ donation was what Callum would have wanted.
"Cal had spoken to me about it and said he wanted to donate his organs, he said, 'Ma, they're no good to me six feet under but give them to someone who needs them'," she said.
"You don't want to even think about it but as time moves on you have to put your own feelings aside and think about what Callum would have wanted.
"He was always a superhero to me but the fact that he saved five lives is amazing."
Speaking publicly for the first time about Callum's death this week, Mark and Catherine paid tribute to their only son, remembering how he was a talented rapper, poet and chef.
They spoke candidly about his devotion to his long-term girlfriend Aisling McKeown and their travels together, how excited he had been to get a cat just two months before the accident, and how warmly he has been remembered by his three sisters, extended family and many friends.
"He had been going around with his friends for a long time, they have told me that he was the one they would go to and that he was the one that would make them laugh - he was a loyal friend," Mark said.
"He walked to a different beat, when his friends played football he was writing poetry or rollerblading, he'd rather be up the mountains ziplining than on a football pitch.
"He just had a different view on life but he stayed really close to all of his friends."
After Callum and Aisling returned from living in Australia together he had been working in TK Maxx and was training to become a manager.
Sadly, in the early hours of December 27, 2016, he was struck by a car while walking home from a night out.
"He was out for a few drinks and he was asked to work the next morning so he left early," his dad said. "He couldn't get a taxi, he was walking home from Skerries and he was literally yards from the path up to the house when he was hit.
"The next day Catherine called to say he had still not come home and when I passed the scene he was gone at this stage and there was just a guard sitting there.
"It came on the radio that a young man had been knocked down and I got hairs standing on the back of my neck, I knew something was wrong.
"We were ringing the guards and the hospitals, the guards had been trying to call Catherine's mobile but they had the wrong number, eventually they got my mother's landline and I just saw her go grey."
Callum suffered severe head injuries and within hours he had undergone an operation.
"He was a warrior, he put up some fight, he had 15 surgeries in 200 days. I reckon he kept with us for seven months to prepare us," Catherine said.
Mark, who works as a nurse, said of those last days with Callum: "Before the last operation I didn't want anyone else in his room beforehand, it was just me and Catherine.
"He had to get another operation because his brain had started to swell again, it was one of the few times that we walked down to the theatre with him.
"Catherine told him that he could go to sleep, that he had done enough and I said an Act of Contrition into his ear, I don't know why we did it that day."
Catherine continued: "I just knew by him, I just knew his poor body couldn't take any more, I just wanted him to be able to sleep, I think maybe that's what he was waiting for."
Callum survived the operation but he suffered a cardiac arrest during recovery and passed away.
The family are hosting a fund-raiser on February 24 - the weekend that Callum would have turned 29 - to raise funds for Beaumont Hospital and Organ Donation Ireland.
It will be held in the Strand Bar in Rush when there will be performances by acts Callum played with, and brave volunteers will also get waxed to raise money for the charities.
To donate, please visit www.beaumontfundraising.ie/ donate/in-memory and request to donate in memory of Callum Grimes.