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Paul de Ferreira

"They weren't expecting him to survive": Father of brain injury patient hopes for funding to give his son a future

Two years ago Paul de Ferreira was involved in a quad bike accident that saw damage to his frontal lobe and caused some of his skull to be removed. / YouTube

IT HAS BEEN two years since Paul de Ferreira (36) was involved in the quad bike accident that changed – and almost cost him – his life.

“We knew it was serious,” says Ronnie Spadaccini, Paul’s father. “I just ran out and drove over… [I saw] ambulance men working over him, cutting the clothes off him.”

The accident happened just near his parents’ house and left Paul with extensive injuries to his skull and brain.

“There was blood streaming down the road,” Spadaccini says. “I hope nobody ever has to – as a father or a mother – see blood coming out of their son’s ears and rolling down the road.”

They had to remove some of Paul’s skull due to frontal lobe and side damage to the brain that caused it to swell.

After the operation and Paul’s eventual return to consciousness, Spadaccini says the relief on the staff’s faces told him all he needed to know – they hadn’t been expecting Paul to survive.

Though he had defied the odds and lived through such a serious accident, the hard times weren’t over.

Paul’s memory was disjointed and he found it difficult to make new memories. He also had to re-learn how to walk, talk and eat again.

His father, and wife Lisa, used to walk him up and down the hospital corridors in order to help with his recovery.

“That was the hardest part to look at,” says Spadaccini. “But we just did what we had to do as a family.”

8919ebf8-dabc-46e9-aab5-c48620d7b855 Paul after his surgery. Ronnie Spadaccini. Ronnie Spadaccini.

Paul eventually secured a place in the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRC) where he continued his recovery and showed a marked improvement, especially after he had titanium plates installed.

He could make day trips home to his wife and two kids, and even was invited back to his old job as mechanic for a supervised day-visit where he remembered how to change a breakpad on a car.

But Spadaccini says that Paul has reached his limits with what the NRH can provide. He now needs to move onto another facility that can help with his integration into a larger community and assist him with his future life.

In November last year the NRH sent a letter to the HSE about funding for Paul’s case. Out of the facilities available, his family chose Acquired Brain Injury Ireland (ABI) as an option.

They would provide a flexible service that adjusts to the individual’s needs over time with an emphasis on independent living and rehabilitation goals.

They also encourage residents to re-integrate into the community and joint clubs and take up placements for study or work.

In March and April this year Paul was assessed for said funding but has yet to hear any word on his progression. The funding is granted by the HSE and is considered on an individual basis according to their situation and development.

If Paul is not moved onto the ABI facility the family says he will be moved from the NRH back to Tallaght Hopital, which is only meant for acute, short-term patients.

They recently received word that the move could be in the next few weeks – something they say would only be detrimental to Paul.

“I would love Paul to be transferred, but to the place where he is supposed to go to. If he goes back to Tallaght he’s going back to a hospital that can do nothing for him.”

National Services Manager, Donnchadh Whelan of ABI Ireland says unfortunately Paul’s case is not atypical.

He says a lack of HSE resources can cause people affected by brain injuries to “become stuck” and the budgets are not enough to meet demand.

“In order to free up funding, either someone else has to lose it or additional funding has to be found,” Whelan says.

“This has unfortunately resulted in people like Paul remaining static in acute hospitals and other institutions that are no longer appropriate for them.”

IMG_0389 Paul before his accident. Ronnie Spadaccini Ronnie Spadaccini

Paul’s father also says he would be taking up a bed that another patient could need – the family also worries the good progress Paul has made in his recovery will slip backwards if he is placed in that kind of environment.

“I’ve been told that it has gone to another level in the HSE,” Spadaccini says about the funding. “But I’ve also been told by the NRH that they have been onto the HSE…but it doesn’t seem to make a difference.”

“Where have you to go to try and give your son back his life and his future?”

The HSE says they cannot comment on individual cases, but is aware of the demand to neuro-rehabilitation services and supports. However, it said that resources are finite for funding.

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