Great News for Catherine O’Leary & Her Family in Cork

Delight as locked-in syndrome woman home after six years.  Listen to the O’Leary family on The Neil Prenderville Show here.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Catherine O’Leary, who suffers from locked-in syndrome with her parents Pat and Margaret after she returned home after six years. “It’s just unbelievable. We’re over the moon,” Pat said. Picture: Michael MacSweeney/Provision

By Eoin English, Irish Examiner
Irish Examiner Reporter

“We never gave up and we never will. We know she knows we’re here. She knows we’re looking after her.”

The father of a woman who was left trapped in her own world after brain surgery six years ago spoke of his delight last night after finally bringing her home.

Catherine O’Leary’s father Pat said he and his wife, Margaret, couldn’t be happier. “It was a long time coming,” he said.

“There were times when we thought we would never get her home. But now that it finally has, now that we have Catherine home, it’s just unbelievable. We’re over the moon.”

Catherine, 38, a mother of one, from Ballincollig, Co Cork, underwent brain surgery at Cork University Hospital on Jan 31, 2008 to remove a tumour.

She suffered two strokes during the operation, leaving her with catastrophic injuries, known as ‘locked-in syndrome’.

She is paralysed from the neck down, cannot move or speak, can only communicate by blinking, and requires 24-hour specialist medical care. She breathes through a tracheotomy tube and is fed by PEG tube.

She spent almost four years in CUH before being transferred almost two years ago to the Farranlea House Community Nursing Home Unit in Cork.

Last year, through her father, she settled her High Court action for damages for €2.5m. The settlement against the HSE was without admission of liability.

Her parents have spent the last few years adapting their home in Carrigaline, transforming an extension into an intensive care unit, in the hope of getting her home.

And yesterday, that day finally came.

Catherine was transferred by Cara Ambulance from Farranlea to her parents’ home for the first time since the operation.

“It’s just amazing to have her home,” Pat said.

“We talk to her all the time, and hope she understands. We just spent time sitting watching TV. Her resting heart-rate is 81, which is great. She is so relaxed. We’re just looking forward to doing the simple things. We hope to take her to Mahon Point shopping.”

A specialist care team from Bluebird Care is overseeing her medical care, with a nurse and carer on duty in Pat and Margaret’s home 24 hours a day.

Catherine will return to Farranlea by the end of the week for a few days, before returning home as part of a delicate transition period.

Pat said this will probably continue until Christmas before they are given the all-clear to keep her at home full-time.

In the six years since the operation, Catherine has shown little or no signs of improvement, although she remains relatively healthy.

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