“Julian Spain for you”, said Pat to me, “Maria, go on” and caused the biggest smile on Pádraig’s face for some time! – He thought it was so incredibly funny because I had asked at least three times who on earth the two of them were talking about. Julian de Spáinn? Julian who?? – Of course, EVERYBODY knows Julian de Spáinn! That is: except me poor eejit! (Well, he *is* the Secretary General of Conradh na Gaeilge after all. I had to google him though.)

That was a really great moment. Because that was him there.


Another great moment (which I missed) was when his physio asked him to lift his arm twice. She asked him just once. And he lifted him twice. You might think its not a big deal, but think about it! – Definitely another first!

So, what’s our day like?

I try to leave the house at 9am to get to the NRH for around 10am by which time Pádraig has been washed and dressed. I give him his breakfast, then there are therapies or just time to talk, lunch just after noon, more therapies or time to go for a short walk and get a bit of fresh air. Pat arrives in the afternoon and the idea is that I make my way home then and do a bit of work here (‘dust bowl attack’).

Sounds good.

In theory.

In practice it hasn’t worked like this yet. Not one day. Yet.

You will have noticed that I haven’t posted any more pictures of the extension and our kitchen. I also haven’t posted any more links to German songs. And, I haven’t highlighted any strange things I came across in hospitals or on my way to one.

The main reason for this is that the past few weeks have been very tiring. It’s funny: each time I think it couldn’t get any worse in terms of running out of time or of getting tired – someone somewhere turn it up a notch. Just to teach me a lesson.

Although – I am convinced that uncertainty, improvisation, lack of routine, all of this is coming to an end. A few more weeks, and Pádraig will be with us in Iona Road.

That day will just be unbelievable. I know that arriving in Rosslare just about two weeks ago was incredible. Coming back to the house to stay with us will be at least equally fantastic.

I don’t want to exaggerate but the last two years of Pádraig’s life have been and incredible demonstration of persistence, proof that you can achieve almost anything if you put your mind to it, and a source of love so great that it swept away any obstacles put in his way.

And this is true also for the NRH. We are just learning about and finding out how much people are prepared to go out of their way to help Pádraig and us to make our new life together possible. An Saol. Dream boaters.



I have the feeling this will be the most unspectacular post of posts.

Weekends are so quiet in the NRH. What if – An Saol organised seminars and workshops, together with the NRH, in the NRH, using facilities that are second to none in the country but unused over the weekend? Do you think the NRH might be interested?


Weekends are time for visits and easy going. Two good friends came out today. Pádraig had met them first in Beaumont where they were visiting their daughter. It was really good to see them again and it was so nice of them to come in and visit.

Pádraig is back eating almost as before, with two warm meals during the day and a good cereal-based breakfast. The only thing that is missing is the ‘pushing out the boat’ a bit food. What he is getting is all pureed and I’m sure he could do ‘better’ than that. Maybe that will change next week.

One constant we had heard about the NRH was that families were always pushing for more time. They wanted their son or daughter to stay here for longer than the allocated three months – which does make sense in many ways. In our case, I cannot wait for the discharge day to arrive. To get Pádraig home home with the support and therapies he will need.

We’ve been here for almost two weeks and I suppose that all the information that had to be compiled will have been compiled and passed on the HSE by now.

Next week, I’ll go to RehaCare in Düsseldorf where I hope to meet our friends from Pforzheim and where I will check out ‘stuff’ for Pádraig and for An Saol. I’ll also spend a few days in Hamburg starting to clean out the apartment…


Pádraig’s second concert is lined up. This time, it won’t be a nice, dry in-house venue like the one for Kodaline in December. It’ll be in the magnificent settings of Newbridge House, Donabate, County Dublin. It’ll be RAVELÓID on 10-12 June 2016. Apparently, Pádraig was ‘involved’ in discussions some years ago about the possibility of organising this.

Now, he’ll be joining the first edition of what sounds like a magnificent fest!

On a different note…

What was I expecting? What did I think – how would my life be in 30 years?


‘All along the Watchtower’, ‘Coming into Los Angeles’, and ‘Heute hier, morgen dort’ made up my standard set and on this day, 30 years ago, I didn’t remember the lyrics of any of them. So I left the party with Klaus and went for a walk to see whether together, we could come up with the three verses of ‘All along the Watchtower’.

No. There were no smartphones. There was no web. It was up to us to remember. We eventually did. But it took a while.

In the meantime, there was a bit of a panic. Several search parties had been dispatched to look for the groom. My newly wedded wife had started to wonder whether she had made a bad mistake.

(I don’t think she ever stopped. Wondering:)

If you know the song I finally ‘performed’ at my wedding – pressured by my family and friends – you’ll know that it starts with “There must be some way out of here…”.

This year, when we thought about what to do for the occasion we thought we might go to Spain for a long weekend for our anniversary. It’s where we met 36 years ago. It’s where we went to live for almost a year, the day after the wedding.

We didn’t.

Our lives changed beyond recognition since that day, 30 years ago. We moved house several times. We had three kids. Careers. And then it changed again when we least expected it.

Sometimes, change can cause a lot of strain on a relationship, to a point when it can’t sustain the pressure anymore.

Sometimes, a relationship grows under pressure.

Little of what I expected actually happened over the past 30/36 years. But I know that I was never as right as that day when I said ‘yes’.

(It was pure luck that Pat did too (say yes)! That was before the party piece, remember…)

Tonight, we’re in a quiet place in Wicklow. And get ready for the next 30 years.

PS: Tonight’s post is post no. 700


The assessment is continuing.

How much is Pádraig able to move.

How much is Pádraig able to drink and to eat.

How long are his lower and upper legs, his feet, how wide are his shoulders.

It all is quite complex and complicated, and it takes hours. Once all this data will have been compiled, it’ll go into the care and therapy plan.


Next week, two OTs will visit our house and check out Pádraig’s new room to see whether it’s appropriate. Their report will also go into the care and therapy plan.

I expect to get a big folder with all reports when Pádraig will be discharged to his home. With the determined support of the health authority, the HSE – I expect.

The man himself is eating like a horse and gets better at drinking every day. He has travelled across Europe, spent six weeks in what I would call a ‘bootcamp’ and is ready to live his life. We are ready to help him with that as much as we can.

Pat and I went out tonight to have a nice meal because we couldn’t get a table for tomorrow in this almost too fancy Dublin restaurant. So we’ll go out to Enniskerry tomorrow, have dinner again, and stay in one of the longest established hotels there, a bit more down to earth. To celebrate life together. Looking forward. Not back (because when we do look back I find it impossible not to cry). Forward is the way. New will be the memories.

And if you thought the trip to Alaska was just a pipe dream – you probably thought that Germany would beat Ireland.

By the way, the staff in the NRH were incredibly understanding today. They offered me free coffee. Tissues. All to help me getting over this terrible match last night. – They got it all wrong. That goal was the best thing ever to happen! And one day they will understand why that is so.


Ireland 1 : Germany 0

Eamon Dunphy (remember: he’s one of Ireland’s best known philosophers) said tonight on Irish TV that if you want to do something, if you really want to do something you have every chance to succeed. In life. In soccer.


I know.

Time is in short supply.

But please take a few minutes and read what follows. Let me know what you think. (Keep in mind that this is about policy and not individual people.)

I had bit of time this morning, waiting for the ceiling hoist man who was going to call in on his way to the Áras. So I did a bit more reading on SMART, the assessment tool developed by the Royal Hospital for Neuro-Disability in Putney (London, UK), following the comment by the father of another young Irish person with a severe ABI who was very clear in his mind about rehabilitation services in Ireland, “just” doing assessments but not getting involved in sustainable follow-up care and therapy.

Remember, the three beds, the only three beds, in the whole country, reserved for persons with severe acquired brain injuries, the beds Pádraig was put on a year-long waiting list for, was a SMART bed.

Here is Putney’s answer to the question “Why use SMART?”

Why use SMART?

Patients with Disorders of Consciousness are often difficult to diagnose. Unless provided with an up-to-datecomprehensive, structured and standardised assessment, potential consistent or meaningful responses may be missed or not fully explored. This, in turn, can lead to:

– Misdiagnosis and possibly withdrawal of nutrition and hydration
– Inaccurate allocation of resources for future patient management

Then there follows a bullet list of “potential reasons for insufficient assessment of this patient group”.

Then the article ends like this:

A Judge recently made a landmark ruling to ensure that SMART assessments are carried out in all future court cases in relation to determining patient awareness levels which could potentially lead to their nutrition and hydration being removed.

I found it hard to believe what I was reading. Was I over-reacting?

Combine this with the statements by health officials about their concern of resources being “wasted” on patients with severe ABI.

This is not SMART. This is upsetting and frightening.

Is it not in contradiction to the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and, generally, against the human rights of persons with disabilities which are “are grounded in a human rights framework based on the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international covenants on human rights and related human rights instruments“? In essence, these instruments affirm the essentiality of “a universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction…”.

It is also in line with EU law, where “disability is a rights issue and not a matter of discretion. This approach is also at the core of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD), to which the EU is a signatory.” (Note: Ireland has not yet ratified this convention!) The European Commission’s European Disability Strategy 2010-2020, adopted in 2010, builds on the UNCRPD and takes into account the experience of the Disability Action Plan (2004-2010).

Luckily, the ceiling hoist man arrived, I got distracted, and started to get going. Another day. Another day closer to home home.

PS1: It would be difficult to find nicer people to look after Pádraig than the nurses in the NRH. Since Pádraig arrived there I have also seen therapists and doctors assessing Pádraig who are all very caring and professional, and who I very much respect and value. The above is in no way meant to be a criticism of them individually.


Had I not listened to RTÉ One this morning, I would have missed a brilliant quote by one of Ireland’s most famous philosophers, Eamon Dunphy, who apparently once said that “football is played on grass, not on paper”.

Ok, Eamon is probably better known as a brilliant ex-soccer player and a very controversial commentator on soccer and all sorts of other things far less important. Whatever…  this quote is just brilliant in its simplicity.

Tonight, the German soccer team is in town preparing for tomorrow’s match against Ireland. On paper, the outcome is clear. But who knows what’ll happen on the pitch?

On paper, the outcome is clear for persons with severe and very severe acquired brain injury. But who knows what’ll happen to each one of them if they get the right level of care and therapy?

German Soccer team arriving at Dublin Airport on 23 November 1956 before their game against Ireland on the 25th. – No idea who won the match 59 years ago…

We went to Germany in November 2013 because there was a waiting list for Pádraig’s admission to the NRH of more than a year. And I could not accept this infuriating delay. Worse, I am learning now that in cases like Pádraig’s there is a view that patients should not be “treated”,  they should be “assessed” in a SMART bed following the Sensory Modality Assessment and Rehabilitation Technique, “to assess levels of awareness functional, sensory and communicative abilities of adults in vegetative (sic!) or minimally-conscious states”. It is “conducted over a three week period by an accredited assessor with subsequent treatment in the following eight weeks”.

Which gives us, roughly, the three months of stay in the NRH every person with a severe acquired brain injury gets in Ireland.

Every expert, in fact any person who had anything to do with a severe acquired brain injury knows that eight weeks of treatment are absolutely inadequate.

Yet this is what is being offered in Ireland.

And after that the nursing home for the majority of injured persons.

Who would ever give up like that on people who have terminal cancer? Who would ever give up like that on people who have a kidney condition that they will eventually die of?

Pádraig’s accident has radically changed his life, the lives of his family, and the lives of his friends. The impact of the truck on his head was devastating.

But there is much much more. What Pádraig has done over the past two years and, more, what he is about to do, Pádraig will change the way society and the system will look at and deal with severe brain injury.

The match will be decided on the grass, the pitch. Not on paper.

And the underdogs can win – despite…


It feels like going where nobody ever went before. Yet, it’s so close

Here we are. Home. But not home home yet.

Still wondering, though, what’ll happen next when.


It’ll all depend. On the assessments. On the view of the health authorities on a home care package that not many people have been looking for before. It’ll be decided on by people who haven’t taken decisions like this before.

So Pádraig is in the NRH primarily, not to be treated but to be assessed. There is, in fact, not so much happening apart from reports and applications being put together which will form the basis for the health authorities decision on the level of care and therapy he should be afforded when he’ll get home, home.

In all honesty. All that could be done in an hour.

In the meantime, I have loads of time listening to the radio on the way out to Dun Laoghaire every morning during rush hour traffic. The advert about the new high-tech emergency department that closes each night at 6pm and Sunday all day. Seems that private clinics don’t open out of hours. It almost beats the advert on the telly where a guy tells us that he loves ‘local’ everything which is why he buys in his local Lidl shop.

This is so bizarre and funny. You couldn’t invent anything like it.

Today I was told: this day next week building work will be finished. Which makes me think that if we managed to organise a bed, even an interim one, Pádraig could come home to check out his new rooms and maybe stay a night at home – for the first time in almost two and a half years.

That would be super cool …


When we moved into this house, we bought a table somewhere in a market in the liberties. It was out of the kitchen of a convent. Real wood. But painted. White.

I took it out into the garden and started to take off the paint. With a hot torch blower. With white spirit. With special paint remover. Nothing worked. It was painfully slow. Over many days. Just before I was going to give up I tried water and soap. And guess what. It worked. Where all the high-tech, dangerous, flammable, expensive attempts had failed. Soapy water did the trick.

Somehow this long forgotten tale came up today when driving back home from the NRH.

It shows that simple things work best at times. That you don’t need to spend tons of money to get the results you’re looking for. In fact, very often so much money is just wasted. For all sorts of reasons.

Like the the very high cost of a hospital bed when people could be at home, given the right support at a fraction of the price.

Today, Pádraig used for the first time an Erigo. This is a tilt table with a ‘walking action’, a kind of pre-Lokomat device for early neuro-rehabiliation. It was great to see Pádraig (almost) standing again. It’s so important for dozens of reasons for him to keep moving and get onto his feet again.

Also, for the very first time, Pádraig not solo lifted his left and then the right arm up when requested. He also, when asked, lifted one hand over and towards the other hand. He supported one hand with the other and held the two hands folded together over his chest. We knew that Pádraig can do this stuff. But it’s nice for the therapists here to actually see it! A simple exercise.


There ain’t much to smile about in Pádraig’s live.

But this past week was just brilliant.


First the big welcome in Rosslare, then the steady stream of visitors coming in to visit him, especially towards the second part of the week, He never stopped smiling when he was hearing the familiar voices of his friends.

Being in Dublin is really magic. There are a few hurdles to take yet, but I am sure it will all work out.

We pretty much know what Pádraig’s needs are. We have been living with him since January. Of course, all of that will need to be confirmed by the Irish specialists, but we intend to work very closely with them.

Tomorrow will be the beginning of another week. The first week Pádraig will spend entirely in Ireland.

The Dublin city marathon will be on in three weeks and today was my 32km run, the longest during the preparation.


This has been one of those weeks that morph into one big time warp. No days, no nights, no hours, no beginning, no end. When I had to look at the phone to remind me of the day it was. When I was so tired that I just couldn’t go on. When I was so excited that I just couldn’t sleep but had to listen to the ocean outside our window. When I got so upset that I really had to breathe in deep, and out, and in, and out, and then talk. When I was so happy to be home that nothing else could have been more important. When I was struck by the kindness of family, friends and complete strangers.

When I met, for the first time, in person, Marcus Mac Conghail, and he met Pádraig, for the first time, having written the most beautiful poem and song for him. A meeting, though short, I’ll never forget, and hope we’ll meet again.

We went out for a walk on Dun Laoghaire pier.


It was windy, a bit ‘fresh’, but so so so full of life. I know, I know, the pier doesn’t look exactly packed on the picture, but there anglers, kids, dogs, runners, walkers, young and old – where would you see that in a hospital, never mind a nursing home?

Where it’s routine to be confronted with talk about persons with potential and persons without potential. And resources being allocated to those with potential. When I know that we all have potential. When I know you support those who need support badly. I know it’s not meant in a bad way.

But it makes me furious. Because life is for all.


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