Padraig Schaler, an Irish student who lapsed into a coma after a cycling accident in the United States two years ago, is set to return home.
On June 27, 2013, Schaler, who was 23-years-old at the time, was cycling in Brewster, Massachusetts, when he was struck by a van. The Dubliner was on a J1 visa and living in the Cape Cod area with friends at the time of the accident, the Irish Independent reports.
Schaler was transferred to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin after the accident. He spent three and a half months there in a high dependency ward, until his family decided to move him to an intensive neuro-lab in Germany because the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NHR) in Dun Laoghaire had a one-year waiting list.
Padraig’s father Reinhard, a lecturer in the University of Limerick, said the family plans bring him home later this year.
“We’re about to start building an extension; the house is old and full of stairs. We’re adding a bedroom and bathroom for Padraig downstairs beside the kitchen so that he can navigate his way around in the wheelchair,” Reinhard told Independent.ie.
“We want to bring him back because we have been away for such a long time. We know he’s getting better and he’s more aware of everything around him, and we know it’s important that he’s close to the people he knows.”
“We hope being back in Ireland will give him a big motivational kick to improve; it must be very, very hard that he’s so far away from home.”
“He’s improving. If you saw him now and didn’t know how he was after the accident, you’d probably think that he’s not in a very good place, but if you compare it to two years ago after the accident, we were talking about organ donation; doctors did not think he would survive.”
“We hope over the summer months that we’ll finish the extension and we’ll bring Padraig home in the autumn if all goes according to plan, hopefully in September.”
“We are aware that there are a lot of variables that we can’t control. He’s stable physically but there’s still a possibility that something could happen for him that he’d require treatment.”
In January, Padraig moved into an apartment where he has 24-hour care.
“Hospitals are not good places to stay long term. Leaving hospital was a huge, huge help and it was made much easier by the great help you get in Germany. Padraig has 24-hour care in the apartment, it helps you to be at home while you’re very sick.”
“When we come back to Ireland, all the things he gets in the German system he won’t get in the Irish system. The fundraising will finance the therapy sessions he’ll need.”
Padraig’s father is campaigning for better services for people with severe brain injuries in Ireland.
“We felt when Padraig’s accident happened, this was the first time that we really needed help from the State and it just wasn’t there. It was really, really hard to take that.”
“There are three beds for people with severe brain injury in the NRH in Dun Laoghaire in this country. When you have a brain injury, what you need is immediate therapy. Padraig would have had to wait one year to get one of those beds in Dun Laoghaire.”
“We were luckier than others because we were able to take him to Germany. Padraig is Irish and also has German passport and that is why we were able to bring him over... Padraig emigrated basically. He had to leave, not because he couldn’t get a job, but because the health system wasn’t in any shape to help him. As parents, you really have to step in,” he said.
Padraig’s friends have started a fundraiser for the wheelchair-adapted extension for the family’s home. Marcus Mac Conghail & IMLÉ have created a song called 'Pádraig', which you can purchase on www.imle.bandcamp.com. All the money will go towards Caring for Pádraig.