Soaked

Imagine, we were there 30 years ago! When security suggested we’d move back a little from the stage as it would be jammed with younger fans! – Anyone selling tickets? Are you going to the concert? Lowering their voice, are you looking for tickets? 300 euro.

On a walk along the Canal, The Royal Canal, we passed by Brendan Behan (well, his statue) sitting on his bench – tonight surrounded by tents and loads of people who were having a great time in expectation of a fabulous concert they were going to attend, somewhat remotely, tonight. Even if they had had the money these homeless lads  wouldn’t have thought a minute about spending the kind of money the touts were looking for. In their minds, they already had a prime spot, beside Brendan, on the Royal Canal.

It’s good to be positive. To be upbeat. To believe in what is possible. Life is complicated enough as it is, we all know and fear the things that can go and are going wrong. But focusing on that, even talking about it, admitting that there are ‘dark’ or ‘depressing’ times in our lives is something we often find very difficult.

“I don’t consider myself a pessimist. I think of a pessimist as someone who is waiting for it to rain. And I feel soaked to the skin.”

That’s how one of my favourite singers (or poets?), Leonard Cohen, described himself with a hint of irony.

That’s ok for Leonard Cohen to admit. For us to admit to a sense of despair, of failure, of hopelessness, is a completely different story. What would your family, your friends, your colleagues think?

Today, I felt soaked to the skin. There you are. One of these days. Full of dramatic, fundamental questions and no answers. Scarlet in Gone with the Wind had the perfect attitude in relation to these situations.

Tomorrow will be another day and what today seems like a mountain to high to climb will look very differently. I’m sure.

Tomorrow, we’ll be joining many people who have walked, or a planning to walk, the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. All for their own reasons. Many complicated, even terminal, often close to impossible to deal with, all looking for encouragement, peace, strength, meaning, a mission in life, and love.

None of this we can find on our own.

join us tomorrow, Sunday, 23 July, at 10:30, in St James Church, Dublin, for the Annual Camino Mass.
See you there!

Exciting

There is music in the air. Sound check in Croke Park. Ireland’s biggest stadium where U2 will be playing tomorrow night The Joshua Tree Tour 2017.

Perfectly audible from the attic where I am sitting tonight preparing a homily I’ve been invited to deliver at the annual mass of the Irish Camino Society, the Society of St James, this coming Sunday at 10:30 at the Church of St James.

I am also just off the phone talking to a young woman who is preparing a big event for September that will raise awareness and funds for a number of organisations, amongst them An Saol.

All that while I’ve been working on a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the Health Service Executive (HSE) which we will sign soon to allow us to receive funds for the An Saol Project – the three-year pilot day centre for persons with severe acquired brain injuries (sABI).

Busy and exciting days.

Also for Pádraig who performed some really amazing exercises and stretches today on his floor matt. Using a big ‘peanut’-shaped ball, he rolled backwards and forwards as well as sideways on his stomach, sitting back on his ankles, and moving his arms up in the air (with help). It was the first time, Pádraig exercised on his stomach. It must have been an amazing feeling and experience for him, allowing brand new connections to be made in his body, feeling nerves and muscles again after a long break. What a session!

Please join us this coming Sunday, 23 July, at 10:30, in St James Church, Dublin, for the Annual Camino Mass.
See you there!

Snaps

No more holiday snaps. Beaches. Lighthouses. Restaurants on stilts. When I go back through the pictures I took, it already seems to be so far away. But then I received an email from our friends at Google who told me that the photo of Pádraig and the Westerhever Lighthouse has “helped people over 100 times” and that “millions of people rely on photos like yours (mine) to see what places are like”.

How easy it can be to help millions of people.

A few months ago, the medical publishing house Thieme, publishers of the journal for occupational therapists, Ergopraxis, asked me to write an article for them. It was published this month and if you click here, you’ll see a (badly) scanned copy of it. It’s in German, but there are a few pictures you might recognise, as well as a few you might not have seen yet.

Pádraig started his regular physio session again today – with a great smile on his face. He showed off all the exercises he can do now and was messing around, introducing a few ‘extras’, laughing his head off (still silently – but the sounds will come, no doubt). He had great fun! The physio decided that we’ll try a few exercises on the physio matt on the ground tomorrow. It’ll be the first time we’ll be doing it. Can’t wait.

It’s good helping people (as you all know). And it doesn’t have to be millions.

Normall

It’s not the first, it’s the second day that I feel the tiredness. And that second day is today. Maybe it was the rain, maybe it was what is presenting itself again as the ‘normal’ life. And who wants that? The ‘normal’ life? – Is there something you can do about it?

Jackets

I had to think of How to save a life (by The Fray) this morning when we were walking around the deck of the ‘Oscar Wilde’ ferry with morning, as we are approaching Rosslare. What would they do if there were more than 4 Adults on the ship when the ship got into trouble? I knew for a fact that on our crossing there were dozens of ‘large adults’ on board. And just 6 infants? The ferry was full of babies. What did the jackets for ‘crew only’ look like? Were they better than the ordinary life jackets?

Not being an expert on maritime safety and all, I would have to guess what would happen in the case of a serious incident. My guess would be that people would take whatever life jacket they could lay their hands on: large adults, infants, crew – whatever. What do you think? Would you agree?

We have been away for a long time. The feeling of being back is mixed. What else would it be. Pádraig was happy this afternoon sitting back in his wonderful garden in full bloom on a nice warm summer’s day. We were happy to have completed this long, almost epic journey back to Dublin. On the other hand: this long break was wonderful, for so many different reasons. And there have been quite some significant changes for the better. For example, Pádraig is only taking half the amount of water he used to take through the PEG – the other half he is drinking now.

Who knows what the coming months will bring. Today, I received another phone call from another family member looking for advice. What to do when a brain injured family member is just left in bed?

There are different life vests for different people – there are different treatments for different injuries. But we need life vests for all. Abandoning those with a severe brain injury cannot be an option. – That would be like denying someone a life vest, allowing someone to drown and die.

IrishFerries

After a great night’s sleep we made it to Cherbourg, passing Omaha and Utah beaches as well as loads of cementaries where young men are buried according to their nationalities. One day, we must come back with more time to visit these places that shapes my parents’ lives. Every day living with this uncertainty – would they survive to see the next day. And this invasion, would it finish the war?


We’re on the Irish Ferries’ Oscar Wilde registered in Nassau – which is neither in Galway nor Mayo but on a much warmer Island far far away… Insurance must be cheaper there.

We’ll be arriving in Rosslare tomorrow morning, as Pádraig did almost two years ago. And how much things have changed! Unbelievable.

Not only will we be heading home instead to the National Rehabilitation Hospital, but we’ll soon be starting the An Saol pilot – something we only dreamt of just two short years ago!

And that will still only be the beginning!!!

Roadtrip

Organized as we are, we were looking for a place to stay tonight on the first day of our mega road trip from Tating to Dublin, about 16 hours drive, not counting the ferry, via Germany, the Netherland, Belgium and France. We found a room for 32 euro and rang ahead to make sure they had a wheelchair accessible room. The person on the other side of the line didn’t speak German, English or Spanish. Which is when my better half came to the rescue (as so many times before). She had studied French in school. I looked up the word for ‘wheelchair’ on Google Translate and together we managed to book the room. We thought.


Then I looked up the comments on the hotel and it had everything from unwanted ‘animals’ to staff ‘only’ speaking French!

When we arrived, after a long 9-hours drive, the hotel was closed and when I had  managed to book us a room (‘no reservation found’) with a credit card on a machine at the door, the room was too small to accommodate a wheelchair!

But then – a really friendly young woman appeared out of nowhere, showed us a wheelchair-friendly room, and cancelled the first one. All in French, of course. The room was nice and clean and the beds were great with white crisp sheets of linen.

Vive la France!

BigHeartDay

Our last day in Tating before the very long drive back to Dublin. We met builders who will do some adaptation work here so that Pádraig will be able to get into the bath and around the rooms a bit easier. If it all turns out as we hope it will, it’ll be really comfortable.

We also went out across the bridge to the Arche Noah. It’s 3 euro per adult or a receipt for the Kurtaxe, a type of spa tax you pay each day you stay in St Peter-Ording on holidays or rehab. But, it was relatively late in the day and the man at the crossing must have had a big-heart-day, he just waved us through. No Ausweis, no Bescheinigung, no nothing. In Germany! Wow!

 

Kiel

It had been worthwhile getting up in the middle of the night to make it for our 8:30 appointment in Kiel with an absolutely brilliant Occupational Therapist, or: Ergotherapeut as they are called in Germany, working for a Red Cross competency and training centre in the area of assistive technology.

We were introduced to some equipment we had never seen before: a really cool high-tech walker as well as a hand made brilliantly designed ‘jump suit’ for walking when suspended from the ceiling.

But the absolute highlight of the morning happened when Pádraig managed to do something he himself very likely wasn’t aware he is capable of and would most likely not have tried had it not been for the encouragement of this exceptional OT: he moved a mouse (disguised as a fire ball on the computer screen) not just down (that was easy) but also up, then left and finally right across the screen. – Truly sensational firsts!! Pádraig was so proud – and so were we!

Pádraig is not quite there yet, but imagine: if he manages to do this correctly, he will be able to drive his own wheelchair using a joy stick.

Talking about wheelchairs – the OT didn’t quite like Pádraig’s wheelchair which he felt was an off the peg ‘caring’ wheelchair whereas someone like Pádraig should have a customised outdoors wheelchair – as all the kids in his institution receive…

Oh – we got a loan of that joy stick and we will try to get not just the game Pádraig played there today, but also a tractor driving game with foot controls and a wheel.

What a day!

Wheelchair-Friendly

“Wheelchair Friendly” can have different meanings. The sticker we discovered on a car at today’s “Straßenfest” in St. Peter-Ording captured them all.

Before Pádraig enjoyed the Bratwurst and Crêpes at the local street festival, he had been to the dentist this morning to get the ‘all clear’ – which was really good news. It was great to see how well he collaborated with the dentist, and – that there are dentists who treat persons in their wheelchairs (gives “wheelchair friendly” a slightly different meaning).

Tomorrow morning, really early, we’ll all be driving to Kiel where the Red Cross has a special centre for assistive technology. We’re so curious to see what the man working in this field for the past few decades can do to help us to understand Pádraig better and help Pádraig to communicate better with us.