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Saturday 30 September 2023 Dublin: 10°C
# padraig schaler
VIDEO: 'We wanted to show people that he can do things they might not think are possible'
Pádraig Schaler and his family show us how they got on on a recent trip to Cape Cod. / YouTube


FIVE YEARS AGO, in June 2013, Pádraig Schaler was on his J1 in Cape Cod when he was involved in a collision with a car while cycling.

The impact caused devastating injuries and Pádraig ended up in a coma for a year. Five years on, he has made the kind of recovery that some medical professionals who spoke to the family said was impossible.

While he cannot talk, he can communicate, eat meals, and travel. During their trip to Cape Cod, Pádraig and his family went back to his old haunts, like the Italian café he worked in.

They also returned to the spot where his accident occurred.

Pádraig - Éigse

Together with friends and supporters, they walked a mile to where a truck collided with him, in an accident that changed his life forever.

Doing the impossible

“It was really good for Pádraig to go there and he was really happy, and he said he was really happy with the journey,” said his dad Reinhard. “And I think that was really important just to show other people that he can do things that they might not think are possible. Because it was a lot of work and we had doubts too but it worked out really well and he liked it. It was tough in many ways, but it was also very good.”

What the family took away from this trip was two things: that Pádraig was happy he went, but that they want families to know that should such a thing happen to them, they might not get justice.

WhatsApp Image 2018-06-25 at 12.32.55 Reinhard and Pádraig

No one was charged over Pádraig’s accident, and it looks like no one ever will.

While in Cape Cod, the family went to the Attorney General’s office, where they discussed the fact that the AG believed there is not enough evidence to bring a criminal prosecution. As there is no equivalent to the Garda Ombudsman there, the family have no other options to pursue, though they had at one point considered a civil case.

The main thing they feel about this is that they want other parents and students to know what this means.

“I think me as a parent, I was not aware of that: if I send my kids over on a J1 to America, they could be very seriously injured, and that the injury they sustain, where [the process to get justice] would be clear here it wouldn’t in America,” said Reinhard. “It can be pinned on them and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.”

The family want to get the details of the case in writing, so they can show people what they face if they get involved in an accident like Pádraig’s in the US.

“They see themselves as being very progressive and caring and whatnot, and they have the law, but in practice it’s terrible,” said Reinhard of the USA. “It can’t be right. I don’t know how they can let it happen.”

WhatsApp Image 2018-06-27 at 09.06.54 (3) Visiting the Attorney General's office

Despite all of this, the family and Pádraig really enjoyed the trip. “I think he took it all in and there were some really nice moments there,” said his dad.

One of the most remarkable moments was when a jogger came down the road as they walked to the spot of Pádraig’s accident – and turned out to be the same jogger who gave him CPR five years previously.

“She couldn’t believe it,” said Reinhard.

An Saol

The family are setting up a small rehabilitation centre called An Saol, where they want to offer the type of care that has helped bring Pádraig to the level he is at (he spent a lot of time in Germany after his accident, in order to get care he can’t get here). They have just signed the pilot service agreement, which means they can move on with hiring and sorting out the building.

“Initially they told us it would take a week. It took seven months,” said Reinhard of securing this agreement. “It just shows if you have the patience and keep at it then eventually with a bit of luck something will happen.”

WhatsApp Image 2018-06-28 at 12.26.41

He hopes that his son’s story of travelling to the US with acquired brain injury will encourage others to see what is possible for them.

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