Misunderstanding

#SaolWalk   #PadraigsWalk

Five years ago today, I was getting ready to go to China the next day. First to Beijing and then on to Sanya on Hainan Island, in the South China Sea. I was going to give a presentation at a conference there. Pádraig was on Cape Cod, working in a Restaurant and a small country hotel. I was so looking forward to China – I was going to meet old friends and make new ones, do some really interesting work, and discover tons of exciting stuff about this really incredible country, its people and its culture.

Today, Pádraig had his usual physio session. there is a subtle but significant change happening in these sessions. It really seems that Pádraig’s pace of progress has at least slightly accelerated. He picks up exercises and new movements faster than he used to. There are observable and measurable changes at almost every session. Of course, this could be a short phase but if it is not, his progress will be more clearly visible and noticeable very soon.

This is Thursday, the day one or several of his friends call in to spend time with Pádraig and update him on what is going on in their world. Today was no different. How brilliant is that? Five years on, an his friends’ support and friendship is as strong as ever. Absolutely amazing and a real credit to them!

Finally, turns out it has all been a misunderstanding, again. And there has been an apology for this misunderstanding, again.

And then an email asking what time would suit us to have a meeting at the office of the Attorney General on Tuesday.

I wonder what is causing all this confusion and ‘misunderstanding’? The first thought that came to my mind was, and I am saying this with the greatest respect: if it is so difficult to arrange a meeting I can see the infinitely greater difficulties and potential misunderstandings around an investigation into how the police dealt with Pádraig’s catastrophic accident. To do these things properly you have to be organised and competent and determined; and have a strong sense of what is wrong and what is right. And then be brave enough to follow through.

Today was the longest day of the year. And to be honest, it felt like it:)

Answers

Five days to go.

Some weeks ago, I wrote to the Attorney General’s Office to ask for a meeting this coming Tuesday morning – Tuesday being the only day we’ll be in Boston. One of the attorney’s I had been in touch with before asked if we could have the meeting after the 29h as they would be away – if not, they would make sure we would meet, on Tuesday, with one of her colleagues who would also be familiar with this case.

Today, I asked for a time for our meeting on Tuesday.

A few minutes ago, I received a reply from that attorney apologising for the ‘misunderstanding’ but that they would not return until the 29th and could not arrange a meeting before that, contrary to what had been said before. They offered a phone call.

A bit more than a year ago, I wrote the email below to this attorney in the AG’s office.

I wonder what will happen when we turn up at the Office of the Attorney General on Tuesday morning anyway?

I wonder, will Pádraig get answers? Ever?

On 22 Mar 2017, at 16:14, Reinhard Schaler <reinhardschaler@gmail.com> wrote:
Dear […],
thank you for your phone call of about an hour an a half ago in which you confirmed that in the light of the statement of the three witnesses to the accident you agree with the original decision by Chief Koch not to prosecute the driver. You offered to review any other evidence that you might not have seen and that I might be in a position to forward to you. You agreed that the investigation was biased but, nonetheless, led to the correct conclusions, i.e. not to prosecute the driver, Mr Couto.
I am, as I said in our conversation, horrified at these conclusions. The whole of the Brewster Police Department assembled at the accident spot, decided that the accident was caused exclusively by our son and took two statements to this effect: the first from a driver who was on a direct collision course with Mr Couto as he was overtaking Pádraig and the second from a jogger who, given the circumstances, most likely could not have had the clear view of the accident she said in the statement she had. The third witness did not see Pádraig at all as she was driving behind Mr Couto.
Neither the Police nor, I believe, yourself considered a statement by the most important and crucial witness, Mr Couto, who, by his own admission, did not keep Pádraig in his view (as he should have) as he was ‘safely’ overtaking him, keeping a ’safe’ distance’ – that is because the Police never took a statement from him and neither did your office, as far as I know. Vital evidence might have been lost because the Police did not investigate the vehicle involved (they took in the bicycle!) nor did they test the driver for substances, or his phone for calls (they did impound our son’s phone and checked it out).
While we had been told by Chief Koch that outside experts were going to reconstruct the accident to check the witness statements against the forensic evidence – that never happened. Instead, the local sergeant provided that reconstruction – a reconstruction that lead to conclusions refuted by an independent expert.
All the above in the light of the most serious accident the Chief had experienced in his career, leaving our son in a coma with doctors in CCH suggesting organ donation. The financial damage has been assessed in excess of US$11m – a burden that now rests largely on us. Pádraig is stable now, and is very very slowly recovering some of his basic functions. However, he still cannot move himself, he cannot talk, he requires help with every aspect of his daily life. I had to give up my work and my wife is considering to do the same. I don’t think anyone who has not gone through this can even imagine the impact.
There is no doubt in my mind that it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr Couto that day drove negligently in a manner that might have endangered Pádraig’s life or safety. He attempted to overtake a cyclist, not keeping him in his sight, with dangerously close oncoming traffic, on a very narrow country road, a well-known traffic accident spot — facts not disputed by anyone.
Again, I really appreciate the time you took to review the case and to call me today. I will consider what you said and come back to you over the coming week or so.
With best regards,
Reinhard

 

 

 

TalkAbout

We keep planning that journey back to the Cape. Pádraig’s visit to the Attorney General, this day week. And Pádraig’s walk tomorrow week.

This will be a difficult and testing journey. And walk. For Pádraig and all of us walking with him.

I want people to know about this. Talk about it. Share it. Because –

accidents like the one that happened to Pádraig should not happen; if they happen they should be investigated thoroughly; that insurers will cover the damage their insured cause and the financial burden of care and rehabilitation will be carried by those who caused it.

Going public is not easy. But in my mind it’s the right thing to do. Pádraig agrees.

Looking at Pádraig’s recovery, nobody, absolutely nobody will ever talk about an intolerable life, about return on investment in sick people, about wasted resource, about better dying than living ‘like that’ ever again.

In my mind, that’s an achievement worth talking about.

Countdown

The Countdown to Pádraig’s first journey back to Boston and Cape Cod has begun.

Tomorrow week, he’ll board his first transatlantic flight since he arrived back in Ireland in a special air ambulance five years ago. We had to fight for him to be allowed to travel. It wasn’t certain he would make that trip back then. It took more than an hour to get him on to that really small Learjet, the door was too small to get him in. His mother had a ‘seat’ in the back so tiny she could hardly move, with that box on her knees with dried ice and his bone flap in it. And I could go on with the drama of it all.

Contrast that with him today letting us know how much he likes to go back to Cape Cod: on a scale from 1 (not really) to 5 (very much so) it was a clear “5”. He also knows, understands and supports why we are going and what we are planning to do.

We read Aoife Barry’s article in the journal.ie today together and he liked it.

Here are two requests:

  • If you know someone in Boston or on Cape Cod please let them know about what we are doing and if they want to join Pádraig and us on his “Walk for Life” – highlighting the need for drivers to share the road with cyclists, direct them to http://www.caringforpadraig.org for details and ask them to sign up here.
  • If you know someone who could help to spread the word about Pádraig’s journey, please put them in touch with us, either through this blog or using the contact details on http://www.caringforpadraig.org.

It would be nice, if we were to walk the last mile to the spot of the accident on Route 6A with a few friends, highlighting the need for drivers of cars, trucks and vans to share the road with cyclists – who are no match and never a threat.

Today is the third anniversary of one of Ireland’s trail blazers in all what very severe acquired brain injury is concerned. Sara made amazing progress and had an incredible recovery. She went for intensive rehab to Germany, because there was no adequate treatment available to her in Ireland. Sadly, she passed away today this day, three years ago. Her parents had campaigned tirelessly and publicly for neuro rehab in Ireland, especially for survivors of sABI. Sara will always be with us and her beautiful spirit never die.

Lobster

Boston and Cape Cod – Pádraig is getting ready to visit.

I don’t know what it’ll be like. Nobody knows. When I close my eyes and think back, i remember that evening in Sanya, I had given a Skyfall-themed presentation, when I got the phone call from home. When we all frantically made arrangements to get to Cape Cod, when US customs officials allowed me to enter the US without a return ticket, and the ICU in Cape Cod Hospital told me to ring them anytime I wanted, day or night. When things were really bad.

Pádraig won’t be going back there walking and talking. But he’ll be able to see where the accident happened. He’ll be able to go to the hospital and see and hear and get to know the place where he spent a bit more than two weeks. Always and literally. On the edge.

Now, we got accommodation organised in Boston for one night only. Because on Tuesday, after our visit to the Attorney General’s office, we’ll drive to Hyannis. On Wednesday, we’ll start our walk at 9 am from Brewster Police Station to the place where the accident happened,

And then, we’ll share one of those famous Cape Cod lobster rolls.

RathCairn

He didn’t stay the night – not because the 300 tent spaces had been sold out (they had) but because we decided that we’d keep something for next year. This was Rath Cairn, the one and only Gaeltacht in the East of Ireland, in County Meath. And Pádraig had got a day ticket for his birthday.

As far as summer festivals in Ireland go, it couldn’t have been more authentic. The field was mucky, the skies were grey, the rain was falling, everything and everybody was cold and wet, but: full of good spirit, good humour, enjoying the craic and the music.

That’s life.

And next year, Pádraig will bring a tent.

Abominable

There are times when I have to look up an Englsih word. Even after decades of living in Ireland.

“Abominable” is one of these words I had to look up when, today, I heard someone saying they could not think of another word when describing a certain person’s behaviour.

Loathsome, detestable, hateful, odious, obnoxious, despicable, contemptible, damnable, cursed, accursed, diabolical, more…” were the synonyms Google came up with. Pretty strong language.

I spent a little bit of time thinking about the person using this word and about the person being described by it. I don’t think either of them are happy in themselves. Otherwise they wouldn’t provoke or have such a strong reaction to what the other person did.

Nobody (I know of) can be happy all the time. But I don’t think anybody should ever be or being perceived to be abominable. I promised myself today that if I felt somebody was (or that I was about to:), that I would stop, that I would rewind, and that I would try to be kind. Because when it gets to that point, kindness is what both need.

Pádraig had a good day today with a catch up session of speech and language therapy, the first one back home after Pforzheim, and an hour-long massage by one of our incredibly generous and friendly neighbours. It was such a pity that after this relaxing and soothing hour he had to get up for his lunch. Later on in the afternoon he had his first music therapy session after a month-long break.

Listening to the music and interaction going on in our living room from the outside as I walked by, I could only capture a tiny part of the kindness and magic that was shared inside, I am sure.

Change(Almost)

A call from the HSE, a brilliant swimming session, and yet another birthday party (this time not for Pádraig but for his aunt:) made today a good day. I am so exhausted from all the action that I am lying down already, struggling to keep my eyes open.

Although nothing has changed materially (yet), I now have been told that the first tranche of money is definitely on the way and should be transferred to An Saol this week, the service agreement will also be signed and a copy returned to us. It almost sounds too good to be true.

What was really good today and is certainly true is Pádraig’s incredible progress in the pool. Movements have become much faster, Pádraig is really moving himself across the pool, walking. And today he stood by himself except for me holding his head.

Are things lining up. Is there, almost, real change in the air?