Taking care of Patrick

Ed Forry

An Irish bicyclist who suffered severed head injuries in a collision with a van on Cape Cod last summer has entered a second year of therapy, and his family is hopeful that he will one day resume a measure of independent life.

Patrick Schaler, a then-23-year-old Trinity College Dublin graduatewas living and working at the Bramble Inn in Brewster on a J-1 visa on June 27, 2013 when the accident happened. He suffered severe head trauma, and was transported first to the ICU at Cape Cod Hospital, and, later, by air ambulance to Beaumont Hospital in Ireland, where he remained in a coma. He was placed on a waiting list for the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) in Dún Laoghaire.

According to published reports in Ireland, when the family was told it would take another nine months to get a bed in the NRH, Pádraig was moved again, this time to Germany, where he could receive early and intensive neuro-rehabilitation.

Both of Padraig’s parents are university-level educators: his mother, Pat, is a lecturer at Dublin City College, and his father, Reinhard, is at the University of Limerick. He is a German native, and his son and two daughters have dual Irish/German citizenship. As a German citizen, the injured young man qualifies for coverage in a public hospital by that country’s unlimited health care program, after paying a modest insurance payment.

Reinhard Schaler said they moved his son out of Ireland out of desperation. “We realized that if he stayed in Beaumont he would get sicker or be further injured and we panicked,” he told Ireland’s online news publication herald.ie. “Everyone knows about the problems in the health sector (in Ireland), but if you have to struggle and fight for everything that you need, from toothbrushes to a head support for a wheelchair, it just drains you.”

Herald.ie reported that Padraig, now 24, is making slow progress, and his father said he is making slow, limited progress, including using a speech valve and moving his toes and tongue to respond to simple questions.  Herald.ie also reported that the family hopes to open a care facility for people with acute acquired brain injuries in Dublin so that other families can avoid their struggle to find proper care. “The plan is to open the doors in January 2016,” said Schaler. “We’re calling it An tSaol, after an Irish language blog that Padraig set up when he was 15. We want to pick up where our son left off.”

The continuing saga of the family’s struggles has become national news across Ireland. It is said that the cost of the air ambulance transport from Ireland to Germany cost the family more than $15,000. The parents make regular commutes to the German hospital from their home in Dublin; the father has rented an apartment in Hamburg; and he does his teaching in online courses. Several fundraising efforts have been initiated to help defray expenses.

A website, caringforpadraig.org, has been set up to provide a regular flow of information on the case, and Reinhard Schaler blogs daily at hospi-tales.com.