AFTER nearly 1,500 days in intensive care and rehabilitation, a young woman struck down with a rare disease is back living at home with her family in county Limerick.
Patricia Ingle, 23, contracted a rare disease from parrots while working in a pet shop in Limerick city in 2008, which left her paralysed, brain damaged, confined to a wheelchair and breathing with the aid of a ventilator.
But after 1,069 days in the Mid-Western Regional hospital in Dooradoyle and a further nine months in a rehabilitation centre in Oxford in the UK, Tricia is home for good.
“Every day for us as a family to have Tricia with us is a wonderful day. This is where we want Tricia - with her family, with as much independence as she can get. To get her home from hospital was the main thing for us,” said her dad Pat Ingle.
But her fight to reclaim her life continues, and her father said they couldn’t be more proud of the progress she has made.
She is now able to speak a few words, can stand from her wheelchair if aided, and is able to operate without her ventilator for up to an hour.
While the progress she has made might appear small, her parents Pat and Annette feel it’s incredible when they consider that her vocal cords were initially paralysed, and doctors told them they were amazed she managed to survive her illness - chlamydia psittacosis, an airborne infection which can be transferred from birds to humans.
“She always loves doing things to improve herself, like going to physio, even though she would be tired afterwards. She calls it a good tiredness.” She moved to the Oxford Centre for Rehabilitation last August, and her parents, originally from Ballinacurra Weston in the city, have been by her side every day. “Of course she’d love to be able to do more, but she’s always upbeat and positive. There isn’t a day that goes by when she surprises us by doing something she hasn’t done before. That keeps us going as well.
“You could count on one hand the number of times she has felt down over the years. The nurses in England really loved her, and called her their Irish daughter,” he said.
Like any other 23 year-old woman, Tricia still loves to shop, especially for trainers, and is a keen concert goer, seeing Jessie J in the Marquee in Cork recently, and she’ll be travelling to Dublin to see Kelly Clarkson in the O2 in October.
She recently visited Fota Wildlife Park in Cork with her family to celebrate being discharged from hospital exactly a year ago, and is still crazy about animals.
“Her confidence has been built up so much since she was in hospital. For a long time we spoke to doctors on her behalf, but she really is her own person,” he said.
She has returned to her normal weight, and is off a lot of medication, previously taking 24 tablets a day for various conditions, which her family see as other signs of hope.
In Oxford, her speech and language therapists would bring her out to shops and help her to talk to people in a normal setting, and “do simple little things to get her to gradually interact with people, and she’s doing that now.”
Cookery classes were another welcome distraction from gruelling exercise to help her to walk and talk again.
Her dad Pat said all those exercises are continuing at home. “We don’t call it homework, because Tricia doesn’t like that word,” he said with a laugh.
“For a long time getting her to build up her confidence to talk to complete strangers was very difficult for her, but now that’s slowly coming back to her,” he said.
In Limerick, her therapists often bring her to a cafe to converse with staff, or to the Crescent Shopping Centre.
Pat says while she may go back to Oxford in the future, it will not be for long periods, and would be for two weeks to a month at most. She also goes to Abbey Physio in Limerick four times a week, where they assist her to strengthen her respiratory and diaphragm muscles for breathing.
Last year she was awarded one of the highest ever personal injury settlements at the High Court - in excess of €7.5m to be paid over her lifetime, after taking a case against the store and the HSE, for failing to diagnose her condition in time.