We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.

Charles Bukowski

This week, I had plenty of reasons to laugh. It doesn’t happen often enough.

I went to my Vaterland to visit two Neuro Rehab Centres. More about these later.

The first thing I notice each time I go back to Germany is that my pocket gets heavy with all the coins. Germans haven’t taken to credit cards. They use money. And they charge you what the items you buy costs. None of that up-rounding to the next 10 cent. —Carnival in Germany starts on the 11th day of the 11th month at 11:11 hr. So, when you go into one of those local pubs (Eckkneipen), you’re likely to meet a funny-dressed carnival prince or princess. — You can open windows in hotel room, even on the 5th floor! — Surprisingly, some coffee machines let the cup overflow, even if you go for the mid-sized coffee. So much for “Vorsprung durch Technik”. — Less than a minute after breakfast TV had reported on the asteroid that had passed very close to Earth the previous night, and joked about what could have happened – a technical fault first showed the test picture (I hadn’t seen that since I was 10) and they were taken off the air. — Finally: everything is taken very seriously, including the energy crisis. Some department stores have taken their moving stairs out of use to preserve energy.

There’s so much more. Even in just a day. Even on the day of my arrival when a young police woman was incredibly cranky telling me that she was having a really shitty day. And that it didn’t look like as if it was getting any better.

Welcome to Germany!

Once back into the Vaterland, I realised how much I miss it. Especially when I visited two privately organised Neuro Rehab Centres. They are run, in very different ways, by people with a passion for what they are doing. In one of them I saw what we should be aiming for in Ireland. The range of services is endless: from the ‘classic therapies’ (physio, ergo, speech & language) to robot-assisted gait training, upper body/arm/hand/finger training, rehab sports, medically guided fitness training, Neuro Psychology (including cognitive therapy), social (care) services, case management, and transportation – all coordinated by Neuro and Rehab Consultants. For daily rates of less than 200 euro to the various cost centres, from public insurers to insurers covering work accidents (Berufsgenossenschaft or “BG”).

People were incredibly dedicated to what they were doing. They had a deep knowledge of new developments and approaches. Mirror Therapy (“Spiegeltherapie”) and a gadget called HandTutor especially took my attention.

In an hour, I learned new things about the Lokomat and had tried out a brilliant new walking aid.

After 4 hours of conversations and walk-throughs, my head was spinning.

The generosity of the people who met me, taking their time and sharing their knowledge and expertise was incredible.

This is where Irish politicians should go to see what is possible and realise that spending money on Neuro Rehab is not only a human right that needs to be inshrined in law, but that it is also much less expensive than paying for regular hospital and intensive care stays of people who are literally forgotten about – not unlike those mentioned in the recent interim report by the mental health commission.

Before all that happened, Pádraig had the biggest smile of us all when he tried out the new design based on the HandScupe, prepared by a UCD PhD student who has been working on this project for some time. He was incredibly engaged and demonstrated to all around how well he is able to use all the fingers of his left hand to play music.

And if he can move his fingers to play that synthesiser, and if the Scupe was connected to a different interface, nearly anything should be possible.

A big laugh at the odds!