On July 23 2018 Zoe Holohan and her husband of four days Brian O’Callaghan Westropp, were caught up in the Greek wildfire disaster that was eventually responsible for 102 deaths. Tragically that toll included Zoe’s beloved Brian. What unfolded was a life-altering year during which Zoe found herself not only fighting for her life, having sustained third degree burns all over her face and body, but also struggling to cope with the devastating loss of both her soul-mate and her father, who passed away three weeks after the fire. In an attempt to make sense of it all, she wrote a deeply revealing memoir ‘As the Smoke Clears’. Her story of survival, conquering immense challenges and discovering a path to renewal, received rave reviews and went straight to Number one in the Nielson book charts.
Today Zoe considers herself extremely lucky to be alive. She has chosen to use her tragic experiences to inspire and motivate people at a time when the world is in a constant state of flux and many are suffering from loss or sudden changes in circumstances. Her story is remarkable, commencing with her rescue from the boot of a burning car seconds from death, to her recovery battle, enduring painful skin grafts and learning how to walk, talk and use her limbs once more. Further medical complications followed when she contracted a rare form of sepsis, which caused multiple organ failure, internal injuries, additional scarring, hair loss and near death. Yet she persevered with admirable resilience and survived.
Zoe tailors her presentations according to each forum, focussing in particular on: motivation, overcoming obstacles, bereavement, mental health issues and restarting life after enduring a tragedy or a major life change. With painstaking honesty she uses her own life lessons to demonstrate how she learned to live with grief and how she still manages her PTSD whilst juggling therapy appointments and ongoing medical treatments for her injuries and scars.
Speaking with enthusiasm, humour and a zeal for life, Zoe shares a special energy that is infectious. Her talks are both thought provoking and inspirational. She displays a unique perspective on how to make the most of a bad situation, cope with a crisis or carve out a new path when your old life becomes unstuck, showing that you can re-build your world one step at a time. She embraces every day, expresses immense gratitude to the medical community for saving her life and reminds us to appreciate the good stuff and never take life for granted.
Zoe Holohan has been interviewed on numerous TV and radio programmes: The Late Late Show with Ryan Tubridy, Ireland AM with Alan Hughes, The Elaine Show, Pat Kenny on Newstalk, Matt Cooper’s The Last Word, as well as many regional radio stations. ‘As the Smoke Clears’ received extensive glowing coverage in the Irish Independent, Sunday Independent, Sunday World, VIP, Irish Country Living, The Mirror, Belfast Telegraph and on independent.ie, evoke.ie etc. Zoe has recorded podcasts on the topic of grief with Brian Dowling’s ‘Death Becomes Him’ and rebuilding life after tragedy in Sile Seoige’s ‘Ready to be Real’. She also narrated and recorded the Audible edition of her book.
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