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Dealing with the aftermath of spinal injury

Denise McNamara

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Trevor Martin was a fit and healthy early retiree enjoying a round of golf when his life was changed forever.

It was the August bank holiday weekend in 2014 and the 57-year-old former regional brewery manager went off in search of a lost ball.

Unfortunately he fell into a dyke and landed on his back onto a stony patch of ground.

It was clear immediately that his injuries were catastrophic.

His central spinal cord was crushed and for three days he was a quadriplegic, unable to move any part of his body.

Trevor, from Corofin, was airlifted to University Hospital Galway but then had to be transferred by road ambulance to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin for an MRI, as the machine in UHG was not being operated over the weekend.

“I had to be intubated to be sent in the ambulance. I honestly thought I wouldn’t make it. I said my goodbyes to my wife,” he recalled this week.

While doctors waited for the swelling on the spinal cord to reduce, he was sent back to Merlin Park Hospital, where he remained for two months to recuperate.

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon Aiden Devitt decided an operation to relieve the pressure on his spine was his best option.

A specialist spinal team to monitor the spinal cord during surgery was drafted in for the nine-hour operation. A month later, he began a difficult eight-week stint in the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dún Laoghaire, for which he was on a waiting list for nearly six months.

“It’s an absolutely fantastic place – I can’t say enough about them. It’s like going to school – you have the whole week laid out for you – physio, hydrotherapy, gym work. Thank God I’m one of the lucky ones. I learned how to walk again.”

Trevor refused to let his boys – aged twelve and eleven – see him until after the rehabilitation.

“They didn’t see me for eight weeks. There were all sorts of rumours that daddy wouldn’t walk again. When they saw me I was standing on my own. I could walk but with a stick. It was marvellous.”

The damage has left his right leg feeling like he is constantly wearing a wet suit. His fine motor skills are now poor, as the messages to and from his brain are not getting through properly.

“It’s a life sentence. People go to jail for a life sentence but they get remission – we don’t,” he reflected.

“Everything is affected. I’ve difficulty buttoning a shirt, trying to zip a jacket, opening a carton of milk, trying to read a newspaper is impossible as I can’t separate the page. It’s very awkward. Everything feels different.”

“The boys have had to adjust – dad can’t go around playing ball – they now have to mind daddy. My wife Yvonne is my best carer. She’s absolutely fantastic. I don’t know how she’s managing it.”

While Trevor has huge praise for his consultant and the team in Dún Laoghaire, he is critical of the lack of supports for patients with spinal cord injuries. Essentially, they are discharged and left to their own devices.

The odd physio appointment is arranged and he has had one visit by an occupational therapist to assess his home situation.

He has had to seek counselling to deal with the emotional outfall of the accident.

“I did get into a black hole. You sort of say to yourself: ‘you stupid eejit. All this for a feckin’ €2 golf ball’. I have good days and bad days but overall I’m in good form.”

He believes there is a real need for a regional rehabilitation centre, where the 88 patients in Galway with a spinal cord injury could go for specialised physiotherapy and additional therapies.

“Over 40% of us are on the breadline because we can’t work. We’re not entitled to job training – we’re literally ignored.”

Spinal Injuries Ireland kicked-started their nationwide awareness programme – This Is My Life – in the Galway Bay Hotel this week to highlight the key issues facing those living with the condition.

“Our awareness programme is reaching out to those living with a spinal cord injury, their families, friends and health services professionals so that we can build a community which will influence change and improve supports and services,” according to Sorcha Silke, Galway Community Outreach Officer for Spinal Injuries Ireland.

“It is acknowledged by the World Health Organisation as one of the most devastating and life changing injuries that a person can sustain.”

For further information on the “This is My Life” Awareness Programme and on support services available to those with an SCI, log onto spinalinjuries.ie

CITY TRIBUNE

Army removes explosive device in Knocknacarra

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An army Bomb Disposal Team was called to Knocknacarra last night to deal with a ‘viable’ explosive device.

Following a request from Gardai, the unit was tasked with investigating a suspicious device in a laneway off Cappagh Road at around 10pm.

The area was cordoned off and following an examination, the device was deemed viable and made safe.

It was removed from the scene shortly after 10.30pm and was taken to a Defence Forces location where it will undergo further examination.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Hospital worker failed to self isolate after trip to red-list country

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Management at University Hospital Galway have been asked to investigate ‘as a matter of urgency’ an allegation that a security employee at the hospital returned to work within the 14-day restriction period after coming back from a ‘red-list’ country.

The person has already worked at least two shifts at the hospital – including looking after an elderly patient – despite the fact that the restriction period would not have expired until this Sunday, September 20.

The Galway City Tribune can reveal that in a letter from SIPTU official to a senior UHG manager, it is alleged there was breach of protocol over recent days by an employee of an outsourced security company.

According to the letter to Services Manager Geoff Ginnety, while the worker was not covered under HSE employee rules, “they still must comply with the Government issued protocols”.

The letter from SIPTU states that the worker in question had told his colleagues that he was in a red-listed country and that ‘he did not have to restrict his movements’ for 14 days and could return to work.

“I request that you [Services Manager at UHG] address these concerns as a matter of urgency and provide clear guidance on how to deal with the issue,” the SIPTU letter states.

According to information accessed by the Galway City Tribune, the employee in question returned from a red-listed country on September 6 last and underwent a test for Covid-19 five days later on September 11.

Shortly after that, according to his employers, the results of his Covid tests came back as negative. The Galway City Tribune understands that he returned to his night-shift work on Tuesday night, September 15, and also worked the Wednesday night shift of September 16.

This newspaper has also been informed by reliable sources that on his first night back on duty the employee was left in charge of an elderly patient, while on his second night back at work, he was dutied to the Emergency Department.

When contacted by the Galway City Tribune, a spokesperson for the HSE said that they could not comment on issues relating to individual staff.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full details, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Leisureland sinks with €20,000 per week losses

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The plug is being pulled on Leisureland – leaving hundreds of swimmers, mostly children, and trainee lifeguards, high and dry.

Galway Salthill Fáilte CLG, the company that operates the publicly-owned facility, has confirmed it plans to shut down its swimming pool and gym, leaving members of six aquatic clubs, hundreds of schoolchildren, and the general public, without an amenity for the foreseeable future.

Swimming clubs fear they will lose a whole generation of young swimmers in Galway if the pool closes. And they have warned that it could end up costing €1 million to repair and reopen the pool after a prolonged closure.

Leisureland blamed the impact of coronavirus for its financial woes, with losses running at an average of €20,000 per week.

The company said that by August it had already spent its annual €300,000 subsidy subvention from Galway City Council, and the local authority has indicated it is not in a position to increase the subsidy further in 2020.

The planned closure – which could result in the furloughing of over 20 staff from next month – has shocked the local aquatic community.

A lengthy hiatus with Leisureland closed will mean Galway will lose a ‘whole generation’ of swimmers, according to Eamon Caulfield, President of Galway Swimming Club and member and former chairperson of Corrib Water Polo Club.

“We’re particularly upset and aggrieved that this is going ahead, it’s shocking. They should be looking to reverse this decision,” he said this week.

The majority of the five aquatic clubs that use the facility (Galway SC, Shark SC, Laser SC and Tribes and Corrib water polo clubs) are made up of children aged 10-18, including some international athletes. Hundreds of children from Galway schools also learn to swim there.

A water safety group has been using the pool every Sunday morning since it opened in 1973, he said.

“Historically it is where Galway gets its lifeguards from. How can you not have swim lessons in a public pool? How can you not have water safety taught in a pool in Galway?

“It beggars belief, we’re on the sea. The water safety people, where are they going to go, how are we going to get lifeguards for beaches? How are we going to get teachers for teaching swimming?” asked Mr Caulfield.

The clubs have roughly 150 members each and generate €150,000 revenue annually for Leisureland.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full version, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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