THE MURROE O’Malleys joined together for The Gathering last year and this June they are coming together again but for a much more poignant reason.
They are hosting a table quiz on Friday, June 20 in Crokers, Murroe to raise money for 24-year-old Padraig Schaler, who has an acquired brain injury following a road accident almost a year ago in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Padraig’s grandmother, Brenda O’Malley O’Byrne, has many relations in Murroe and surrounding areas. While his dad Reinhard Schaler is course director in UL. His mum Patricia attended the O’Malley Gathering in Murroe last year shortly before the accident and is very touched that they are raising money for her son.
“I think his tragedy is something that has touched a lot of people, in one second his life and all the family’s life are totally shattered,” said Patricia.
The timing is poignant as this is the time of year when college students go to American on J1 visas.
“It was on the morning of Friday, June 27. He was cycling to work on a very narrow road and somebody went to overtake him. What we think happened is the side of the van must have hit the handlebar of the bike because the handlebar was twisted around.
“It shot him up in the air against the van and then onto the road. He was propelled against the van and that movement is what caused the injury. His brain was shot forward,” said Patricia.
Doctors did not have much hope for his survival but he pulled through. To compound the nightmare situation the company that had sold him his €6.5 million travel insurance policy refused to cover his medical expenses incurred at Cape Cod Hospital.
“They said he wasn’t wearing a helmet and that this came under sport. He was just cycling a couple of miles up the road to a guesthouse where he worked. It was a total farce.
“It was in the middle of the summer, hundreds of Irish kids are cycling without helmets. They didn’t pay his hospital bills, nothing,” said Patricia.
Having spent two and half weeks in hospital there, his family succeeded in getting him home to Dublin with the insurance company eventually paying for his repatriation without claiming any responsibility.
Padraig was taken to Beaumount Hospital, where he would spend three and a half months in a high dependency ward while in a coma. “One thing we have learned is that you’re on your own with a brain injury in Ireland,” said Patricia.
“The National Rehabilitation Hospital said it would be a year after his accident before they would have space for him because there are only three beds for patients with severe brain injury in the whole country. Can you imagine it? In the whole county.
“We were very unlucky in that some get in after nine months. At the time the waiting list was bad.
He was left in Beaumount where they don’t know how to deal with coma patients, he was just in a post-operative ward,” she said.
As Padraig’s dad is German they went to visit a rehabilitation hospital there.
“They said it would be a grotesque thing to do to leave him lying there. They said it was ‘unethical’ to leave someone in his condition lying like that in an acute hospital in a high dependency ward. He needs specialist care,” said Patricia.
Reinhard and Patricia succeeded in moving Padraig to a hospital in Hamburg where he is now getting the care he needs.
Since he went to Germany, he has made some progress but it is a very slow process.
“There were signs last week that he might be able to communicate with his feet; we asked basic questions and then he lifted the right foot for yes and the left for no.
“He can open one of his eyes and we believe he has some vision. He is unable to move most of his body and lies motionless in the bed or sits in a wheelchair for a few hours a day. He breathes with the aid of a tracheostomy which they are working to try and remove.
“He does not directly react when we go in but he usually opens his eye and occasionally squeezes our hands. He also responds to music, it either relaxes him or he might move his foot to it,” said Patricia.
Last Thursday week was Padraig’s 24th birthday which was a very sad day for all of his family and friends.
By telling their tragic story Patricia wishes to highlight the shortcomings of some insurance policies sold to students planning to work abroad, and the lack of appropriate care and therapy for patients with acquired brain injury in Ireland.
The family have significant expenses trying to cope with Padraig in hospital in Germany while trying to look after other members of the family in Dublin, as well as earning a living.
Padraig was a hugely popular student at Trinity College where he studied Irish and History. A talented swimmer and a passionate Gaeilgeoir, a testament to his popularity is the number of events organised by his friends to raise money.
And his extended family in Murroe haven’t been found wanting either.
The quiz begins in Crokers at 9pm on Friday, June 20. Table of four €40.
“There will be lots of spot prizes and finger food included,” said one of the organisers, Michael O’Malley. Fellow committee member Brid Foster said: “All monies collected will go directly to the fund set up for Padraig.” Contact 085 1741243 or 087 9595622 for tickets or donate at www.caringforpadraig.org