Hollywood actor Colin Farrell has asked the public to support Laois woman Emma Fogarty, the “bravest human he has ever met”.
Emma has started a brave attempt to break through the pain barrier to raise funds for people, like her, who live with skin disease EB.
Colin has been joined by rugby star Johnny Sexton in backing Emma who will celebrate her 36th birthday by completing an incredibly painful 36 km assisted walk over the course of this month to raise funds for Debra Ireland.
Emma was born with EB (epidermolysis bullosa), also known as butterfly skin, which causes the skin layers and internal body linings to blister and wound at the slightest touch
In a video of support for Emma’s 36 Challenge recorded in Los Angeles, Farrell, who has known Emma for the past decade, described her as a dear friend and the bravest human being he had ever met.
“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.”
At present, 80% of Emma’s body is covered in open wounds and is bandaged every second day.
“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,” said Emma, from Abbeyleix in Co Laois.
“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.”
As well as donating, Emma is asking the public to do the 36 km with her.
“Either walk with me, do two kilometres with your kids or do whatever you can do and to donate, search for Emma's 36 Challenge on justgiving.com.”
Following a health setback last year, Emma now uses a wheelchair.
“I can't walk, so the amazing Georgina Herlihy, my assistant, is going to push me all the way.
“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.
“I can guarantee you that I will have many more wounds at the end of this challenge than I did at the beginning.”
Debra Ireland provides patient support services and drives research into treatments and cures for those with the condition.
“Debra Ireland is an amazing charity. I am so lucky to have them, because without them we wouldn't be able to get nurses or research funding resources, and they deserve all the help they can get.
Ireland rugby captain Johnny Sexton has been an ambassador for Debra Ireland for last 10 years.
“It's a charity that is very close to my heart. It is obviously a terrible disease to live with for the people who have it but also for their families,” he said.
“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 Olympian Dr Ronnie Delany is also supporting Emma.
“I first saw her with Johnny Sexton nearly 10 years ago at a photo shoot for Debra. I was very impressed with her courage and positive attitude,” he said.
“She has an amazing sense of life and wants to change the future for all children born with EB," he said.
Emma spoke today on the Ray D'Arcy radio show where she revealed that she had to have her foot amputated last November after developing skin cancer.
Colin Farrell came on the phone too to praise his friend for her bravery, calling her a legend.
Ray has now promised to come to her home and has set a fundraising target of €36,000, one for every year of her life.
In the past day her fundraiser has jumped to almost €17,000.