On the 4th of October, a clear fall day in a Boston suburb, tragedy struck when Galway native Bertie Mullin, lost his footing on the roof of his home.  

He fell an estimated forty feet to a concrete patio where he lay unconscious for a brief period. A neighbor later heard his cries for help and called 911. Reading Fire and Emergency services responded immediately and rushed him to Lahey Clinic Hospital Boston.  

Bertie, a painter by trade, suffered life-changing injuries including a closed fracture of his left arm requiring surgery with insertion of hardware, an open fracture to his ankle, a crushed heal, and fractures to his lumbar vertebrae at L1, L2, and L3. He suffered major internal bleeding when a broken bone in his ankle severed an artery in his leg.

A fluent Irish speaker, Bertie emigrated from the Aran Islands in 1990. He has always worked as a painter around the Boston area and settled in Reading with his wife Gerri Anne and they had four children. With his children enrolled in Irish dancing, and a regular at St. Agnes Church on Sundays, Bertie carved out a living painting in the town of Reading. His business had just started to pick up again this summer after a very quiet year due to COVID concerns among his customers.  

The Mullin family in happier times: Bertie with his four children and wife. (L to R): Aidan, Ciara, Gerri Anne, Catie, Connor, and Bertie.

The Mullin family in happier times: Bertie with his four children and wife. (L to R): Aidan, Ciara, Gerri Anne, Catie, Connor, and Bertie.

Looking back at the past year, he remarked, “A lot of people didn’t want you coming in their homes to paint during covid, and they put off some jobs.”  

On the day of his accident, Bertie was securing a covering to a dormer at his home when he fell. Because the accident occurred at his home, there is no access to personal injury or loss of income coverage.

“I was doing a simple job, but I took one step back and went over the edge,” said Bertie, interviewed recently for this article, “I remember falling the two floors towards the patio and my leg going through one of the patio chairs. I must have lost consciousness because I don’t remember hitting the ground. The furniture might have broken my fall a bit and saved my life.  

"When I woke, I realized I could hardly move with the pain and started shouting for help. Thank God a neighbor heard me and came running. The minute he saw me, he called 911. They [emergency services] were very fast getting to me.” Bertie had high praise for the first responders remembering, “the pain was unbearable.  I was begging them for something for the pain.”

The Mullin family faces a year or more of unexpected expenses and loss of income related to the accident. Surgeons have indicated that while they have re-attached bones in his leg with the use of hardware, he will require further surgeries on his ankle in 2022. They have warned him he will permanently lose some mobility movements in that foot.

After 15 days at Lahey clinic Hospital, he was transferred to Spaulding Hospital where he underwent rehabilitation for a further 8 days. He was later discharged and now sees physical and occupational therapists at his home on a daily basis.

Bertie recovering with his children Aidan and Catie.

Bertie recovering with his children Aidan and Catie.

While they have medical coverage, they have to meet a $5,000 deductible on their policy, pay co-pays on prescriptions, doctor's visits, physical therapy, and occupational therapy visits.  

“One of the first expenses we faced was the installation of a stairlift at our home to transport him from the first to the second floor,” said his wife Gerri Anne, “unfortunately we don’t have a usable bathroom on the first floor.” The chair lifts cost $3,000 for installation and thereafter are maintained on a lease at $300 a month.

Tragedies like this, however, often bring out the beauty and compassion in the world around us. Neighbors have been helping cooking the family meals in the evenings. A local restaurant owner, Dublin native Eilish Havey of Bunrattys Tavern, has come forward offering to cook Thanksgiving Dinner for the family. The local paint store decorated their home for the children at Halloween. The Irish Pastoral Centre Boston has been providing support, and its chaplain Fr. Dan Finn is praying for Bertie's full recovery.

Bertie, like many Irish immigrants of his generation, left Ireland with a strong work ethic hopes that one day he’ll be able to paint again. However, others including medical personnel are not as optimistic given the extent of his injuries. 

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family through the year ahead meet medical and living expenses and pay for any necessary home modification to enable the family remain in their current home.  

As we approach the holidays, we’re hoping readers will respond to the plight of this Irish family by donating to the fund established. The family is overwhelmed and very grateful for the support from the community.

*This article was submitted to IrishCentral by Kieran O'Sullivan. Have a story you want to share? Email Editors@IrishCentral.com or sign up for our contributors platform, IrishCentral Storytellers.