Today, I went to my first professional one-day conference, organised by Headway, entitled “Current Best Practice And Future Directions In Neuro-Rehabilitation After Acquired Brain Injury”. Fair play to Headway!

At the end of the event I had decided I would not become a professional.

There were lawyers, doctors, therapists, researchers, and myself. When the CEO of Headway opened the event in the morning, I even got a special mention.

In my mind, the best talk of the day described rehabilitation as working for a meaningful and satisfactory life – not a series of ‘score taking’. It was a very comprehensive presentation of a very complex topic covering statistics, HSE initiatives, and expressed the hope that change could be on the way. However, it also described the practice that the injured are being sent back to acute hospitals after rehab as ‘beyond belief’. It highlighted that the 1999 recommendations by the Royal College of Surgeons of England (which also covered Ireland) for post-neurosurgery had still not been implemented. It described the resources available in Ireland as insufficient and as “shame on our service” – and compared this to the 200 rehab consultants working in Slovenia (in case you didn’t know, Slovenia has half the population of Ireland). It described a pathway to rehabilitation with two important elements, i.e. specialist in-patient rehab and specialist community-based rehab, as – “to put it politely” – “not consistently available”. It remarked that the State was failing the need of patients with brain injuries. It asked for support for the public outrage at the lack of services. It posited that in order to bring change (more quickly) family members needed to agitate because politicians listen to the public more than to the professionals. In order to bring change we need catastrophes. – What a speech!

It was a very powerful speech given with conviction. Somehow, however, I don’t think some of the listeners felt or even understood the magnitude of what was said. There was no outrage there. There was no agitation. Because, well, there were no injured and none of their family members. These were professionals.

I don’t want to be unfair to professionals though. Some of them haven’t lost their heart and their convictions (the speaker I mentioned earlier is one of those).

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A few things happened today in the NRH, including a text Pat received from another kind of professional. The lady we bought curtains (well, not really curtains but ‘stores’) from Hickey’s last Sunday. Her colleague had called in during the week to put up the rails. She said that the curtains were ready, that she had pressed them, and would bring them down to the house this evening. She arrived this evening, hung them, re-measured the new windows and explained to us what we needed to buy instead of custom-made curtains (costing a fortune). She said ‘hello’ to Pádraig and wished him and us well when she left. On her way back home she texted again, she’ll be working in Sunday and will look after us, making sure we’ll get the over-curtains before Christmas. A true professional.