herald

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Paralysed hunger striker in hospital after HSE protest

Derek Nolan is demanding more help from the HSE with his care
Derek Nolan is demanding more help from the HSE with his care

a PARALYSED man has been admitted to hospital after going on hunger strike in a bid to secure extra home help support from the HSE.

Derek Nolan, from Rathfarnham, was taken to St James's Hospital by ambulance after more than a week of not eating.

The 27-year-old has little or no movement in his body following a fall seven years ago.

In an interview with the Herald just days before he was hospitalised, Derek said the 60 hours a week he receives in home help from the HSE is not enough to allow him live in dignity.

"I would feel better if I was dead to be honest with you," he said. "I just can't manage. It's very tough on me and sometimes I'm at home on my own when basically I can't do much for myself at all. I haven't got any movement in my hands or fingers even.

"I can only use a mobile by touching my knuckle. I just feel like I'm getting let down by the State and I have to try and get more hours because if I don't, I won't be able to cope and my mental health is just very, very bad," he said.

His mother Aisling Nolan told the Herald yesterday her son is very sick.

"He is vomiting a lot. His temperature is really high and his blood pressure is really low," she added.

Ms Nolan's life is one of "constant, constant stress and sleepless nights" as she struggles to cope with the demands of Derek's care, she said.

"It's the last thing you think about at night and the first thing you think about in the morning," she said.

A HSE spokeswoman said: "The HSE do not comment on individual client care matters. "Generally, the multi-disciplinary team meet on a regular basis to discuss the care package details of their clients and appropriate measures are put in place to address identified concerns on an ongoing basis with all clients."

Following his accident, which caused severe spinal injuries, Derek received compensation. It was just enough to buy a house but didn't stretch to paying for carers.

Up to then, he had been living with his parents.

Explaining what happened, Derek said: "I was walking home one night, I had a couple of drinks, and basically there was this closed off area in Rathfarnham village and I tripped over something.

"I can't really remember how or why but I tripped. Next of all, I remember I woke up and I was on the ground. It was a 15ft wall. Where I was standing it was a 2ft wall but over the other side it was a 15ft drop.

"I woke up on the ground then so I must have been unconscious. I was only barely able to call for help. Someone was after walking by and they came down and rang an ambulance then."

Torture

Subsequently, he was left paralysed from the chest down. Care workers hired by the HSE through an agency visit Derek's home to help him carry out basic tasks. He also receives visits from public health nurses.

"The way I have it at the moment is I have them coming in to do a couple of nights a week. They come in for showers during the week," Derek said.

"I'd really need an extra 40 [hours] to really be able to get my independence back. I'm stuck at home most days of the week and I can't even go out, even down to the park or down to the shopping centre if I want to get some food for myself," he added.

"I'm paralysed. I don't have any movement in my fingers or my wrists. Basically, I have one good arm which is my right arm and I'm able to control the wheelchair with my hand.

"I have this special kind of joystick so it's easier for me to drive it. I need someone with me to open the door for me."

Derek was on hunger strike from August 31 until his hospitalisation on Monday.

"To be honest with you, it's torture. Yesterday, that's when the effects [of the hunger strike] started coming up badly. I'm shivering and I feel very cold and stuff like that," he said last week.

"I am going to stick it out because at the end of the day, I've nothing to lose. I feel like I've been let down. I want my dignity back at the end of the day.

"I rang the HSE up the other day and all I keep getting through is the voicemail. I left voicemail after voicemail. They're not getting back. I told them I was going on hunger strike," Derek added.

Spinal injuries are "completely different" to any other types of illness or disability, said Derek.

"The pain I go through on a daily basis is unbelievable and the doctors can't see how or why I'm getting all this pain.

"They just say it must be in the nerve. I'm in torture, torture," he said.

comurphy@herald.ie

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