On the 3rd of June 2013, under the mischievous influence of Captain Morgan, I found myself disobeying the 3-point-of-contact rule whilst, apparently, thirty feet high up a tree. Down I went, tumbling into a new life-changing challenge.
First my wrist, then my leg, then my neck……… CRACK.
Immediately, fresh off the back of a three-day first aid course, I knew this was serious. Kyle, heroically, called the ambulance……. “male, 24, fell from a height, possible spinal injury, owenabue estate, carrigaline”.
Within five minutes the ambulance came screaming up the road, followed by another. Just as I had been used as a dummy spinal injury patient some days before, I was shimmied carefully onto a spinal stretcher and carried away with the ambulance crew. When we got to Cork University Hospital the seriousness of the injuries were unveiled. My wrist was treated on arrival, while X-rays were being performed on my neck and leg. There was a lot of commotion and to-ing ANDY fro-ing before it was decided that the injury was so serious it would need to be dealt with in the Mater Hospital Dublin.
I was hoping to be airlifted, but instead had to be wagoned up for two and a half hours in another ambulance.
Upon my arrival at the Mater, I was prepared for surgery. While waiting to go in I recognised the silly blue casted hand that could only belong to the broken thumb of John Downey. The doctor proceeded to tell me that after the surgery my condition would most likely be irreversible. Rather than entertain such morbid thoughts I preferred to focus on the jovial company of John. We chatted the whole way down to the operating theatre. I was then sedated and went into the land of Peter Pan and Mickey Mouse.
I woke up over 12 hours later in the Intensive Care Unit to my Mum and my brother with a tube wrenched down my throat, which was, fortunately, removed not long after. I spent five nights there and was looked after very well, particularly by the lovely Susan. As my breathing and mobility became stronger I was transferred to the High Dependancy Unit and then eventually to the National Spinal Injuries ward in the Mater. I met the consultant of the National Rehabilitation Hospital who informed me that I would be transferred there as soon as a bed became available. She also diagnosed me with a C4 spinal cord injury and told me I would not walk again. But, I don’t believe her. I will walk again.
A bed became available at NRH after just two weeks into my stay however due to severe neck pain it was decided I was not ready to start rehab.
During this time my Dad was meant to fly back from Switzerland for what would have been my graduation. When my mother went to Dublin airport to collect him there was no sign of him. After a lot of panic and countless helpless phone calls we managed to get in contact with the airport medical staff who confirmed that an Irish man had had a cardiac arrest in the airport and he was rushed to HUG, Hospital Universitee de Geneve. We called the hospital immediately where they confirmed that Gerard Kirwan had been admitted and was currently in a medically induced coma. My Mother, my brother, his girlfriend, my sister, her boyfriend, my cousin, my auntie and uncle all fled to Geneva. Fearing the worst I was left in the Mater hospital to await news.
I was thankfully distracted from all this commotion and uncertainty by many friends, family and neighbours who arrived to visit.
The next day my Dad was brought slowly out of the coma. Over the next few days it was clear that he had made an amazing recovery. Although I knew I would still not see him for another few weeks or even months.
My neck pain had subsided by 3rd of July and I got word I would be transferred to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoighre that very day. Since then I have settled in well to my hospital ward in rehab hospital. While I still have quite substantial neck pain, I have had regular physiotherapy to work on my upper body strength and I am getting stronger and more independent. Whilst making quite a mess, I can now feed myself, shove water in my face and attend to those irritable itches that have tormented for weeks now. My next goal is to pick my nose, which will go down as one of my greater achievements in life. As my progress and abilities continue to improve in the upcoming weeks and months I will post on this blog to keep anyone who is interested updated.