Hollywood star Colin Farrell has hailed the bravery of an Irish woman with a rare skin disease as she prepares for a gruelling charity challenge.
Farrell and Irish rugby captain Johnny Sexton have both sent video messages to Emma Fogarty, from Abbeyleix in Co Laois, ahead of a 36km assisted walk to mark her 36th birthday.
Ms Fogarty was born with Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB), also known as butterfly skin – a disorder that causes the skin layers and internal body linings to blister and wound at the slightest touch.
At present, 80% of her body is covered in open wounds, which are bandaged every second day.
On June 25, she will try to complete 36km in a wheelchair to raise funds for Debra Ireland, a charity that supports people with EB.
Farrell, who has known Ms Fogarty for a decade, sent a video from his home in Los Angeles paying tribute to the efforts of his “dear friend”.
“I’m really nervous for her but I didn’t even try and stop her because she’s like a bull in a china shop when it comes to her determination and will,” he said.
“She wants to show people that even though she lives with the severity of the pain of this condition, it does not hinder her ability to express herself and live the life that she wants to live.”
Ms Fogarty has been using a wheelchair since undergoing major surgery last year.
Her assistant Georgina Herlihy is going to push her on the 36km journey.
“The pain I endure, all the time, whether I’m sitting in a chair or lying in bed, is considerable, and I am on a huge amount of medication,” she said.
“But I’m not going to let that beat me. My birthday is on June 25, and to mark it, I’m embarking on this challenge to prove a point.
“For people with EB, 36 is old and to get to this age is a privilege that is denied to many.
“I had a hard year. I had life-changing surgery and I will never take a step again.”
Ms Fogarty said the challenge would undoubtedly cause her more injuries.
“My test isn’t the endurance test, it is to see if I can endure the ramps, the bumps, the potholes – even a pebble on the road,” she said.
“I can guarantee you that I will have many more wounds at the end of this challenge than I did at the beginning.”
Ireland and Leinster star Sexton has been an ambassador for Debra Ireland for the last 10 years.
“It’s a charity that is very close to my heart,” he said.
“It is obviously a terrible disease to live with for the people who have it but also for their families.
“Emma is taking on a challenge that might not seem big to you or me but with everything that she deals with in terms of bandage changes in the morning and all the medications she is on, she has to try and get into a wheelchair and complete this challenge.”
Irish Olympic gold medallist Dr Ronnie Delany is also supporting Ms Fogarty’s charity venture. He praised her “courage and positive attitude”.
“She has an amazing sense of life and wants to change the future for all children born with EB,” he said.
Ms Fogarty urged the public to support her by donating, or even doing the walk with her.
“Either walk with me, do two kilometres with your kids or do whatever you can do,” she said.
To donate visit justgiving.com/fundraising/emma-fogarty