BY KIERAN O’MAHONY
THE mother of a young man from Enniskeane who was left paralysed following a car accident last year is calling on the HSE to sanction funding for a home care package so he can leave the nursing home where he has spent the past six months, and come home.
It’s been an emotional and harrowing year for only child PJ Coffey and his parents, Eileen and Paddy, following his car accident outside Clonakilty on May 8th last year.
The 21-year-old was travelling in his car with his girlfriend and, while she escaped injuries in the collision, PJ was left with a devastating spinal injury which has left him paralysed.
‘It was a massive shock to go up to CUH that night and be told that he would never walk again and they were very definite about that. It was very hard for all of us to take it in,’ said Eileen, speaking from their home is Lisnacunna.
‘PJ had an operation in the first week while he was in CUH and doctors knew straight away when he was taken from the car that it was a C5 spinal cord injury he had suffered,’ she recalls.
He spent seven weeks in CUH before being transferred to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire where he spent a further six months.
PJ explains: ‘I was getting a lot of physio and occupational therapy up there which was to improve my upper body strength.’
Both PJ and Eileen can’t praise the staff enough at both hospitals who helped them enormously.
‘We were then told that PJ would be discharged in September, but he didn’t come out until December because there was no home care plan in place. It’s still not in place,’ said an anxious Eileen.
PJ is currently living in a special nursing unit in Farranlea in Cork City from Monday to Friday and comes home at the weekend.
While applying for home care help, the family has also set about making their home accessible for PJ which included putting in a downstairs wet room and adapting a downstairs room into a bedroom.
‘We applied for the home care last August and the company that applies on our behalf to the HSE came to visit him several times and they visited our home here to make sure it was suitable for their employees,’ said Eileen.
‘We only got the go-ahead two months ago that the company will take us on but they have to make their costings to the HSE for funding and we are waiting for them to get back to us.’
Eileen feels it could be December by the time PJ gets home care because the funding has to be sanctioned first, then the position needs to advertised and the candidate must then undergo training.
The HSE has allayed recent reported concerns that it has suspended home care hours to new applicants between now and early November to balance the budget for this year but she is still concerned.
She said: ‘We are struggling to keep him here at weekends but he would be going crazy if he couldn’t come home and it’s something that he can look forward to every week. It’s a lot of work that we’re not used to doing and we are not trained as carers so getting home care means he can finally come home and have the expertise help available.
‘It would be cheaper for the HSE to have PJ live at home and have carers in for him rather than have him at the care unit in Farranlea which is costing thousands of euro.’
In tragic circumstances like this, it’s reassuring to know that communities come together to support their neighbours and Eileen and her husband Paddy have nothing but praise for their local community who rallied in their time of need and raised thousands of euro for a fund for PJ by holding numerous fundraising events last summer.
‘The community of Ahiohill-Pedlar’s Cross was amazing in the fundraising work they did for PJ. The turnout last year for the Pedlar’s Cross Vintage Run in aid of PJ was the biggest they ever had and we want to highlight this year’s even which is on Sunday June 23rd,’ said Eileen.
‘We had to buy a van with a hoist to transport him and he has an electric wheelchair too and none of this would have been possible without the generous community support.’
Despite what life has thrown at him, PJ is in a good place and remains positive about his future and he wants to go to agricultural college to get his Green Cert.
‘A lot of people think he’s at home full time and that he is getting on with his life, but that is obviously not the case.
‘We just want him home full-time now so he can continue his education, get a job and continue with the rest of his life.’