Saturday 19 October 2019

'I feel like I've lost her' - family's plea for therapy to help brain-injured mum

Vera with daughter Natalie and sons Daniel and Jonathan
Vera with daughter Natalie and sons Daniel and Jonathan

The family of Dublin darts great Vera Ronan has made a desperate plea for vital rehabilitation therapy after she suffered a serious brain injury.

Vera's husband, John, and daughter, Natalie, are pleading with Health Minister Simon Harris and the HSE to stop the further deterioration of Vera's brain functions by granting her the intensive therapy she needs.

John (63) broke down in tears as he told the Herald of his unanswered pleas for intensive help for Vera (63).

"I'm so angry that they are not giving her the intensive therapy she needs," said John.

The couple grew up in Cabra and have been sweethearts since they were 14 years old.


They played darts together for decades and Vera was the captain of the Dublin ladies' darts team, leading the county to five All-Ireland victories.

She was the Dublin captain 18 months ago when she slipped in the hallway of her home in Mountview, Blanchardstown, and fractured her skull.

She underwent seven hours of surgery to stop bleeding in her brain.

She is now totally dependent on others, as she has been left with no short-term memory and has difficulty with her balance.

Experts who examined Vera later declared her condition would improve if she received intensive brain exercise therapy at home six hours a day for an extended period.

Instead, she receives only two hours a week from a rehabilitation assistant at her home in Blanchardstown.

Natalie feels betrayed that Vera has not got the treatment she so badly needs.

"My mother is deteriorating before my eyes because she isn't getting the amount of intensive therapy she needs," Natalie said.

"I was best friends with my mother but she can't have a conversation anymore and will ask the same question every three minutes. I feel like I've lost my best friend and my mother," said Natalie, a Sinn Fein councillor in Blanchardstown.


Vera also played darts in the Dublin men's league as a top player. She even defeated Phil Taylor when he visited Dublin in the first year that he was world champion, said Natalie.

"Dad hasn't thrown a dart since her accident," she said.

Vera's plight is replicated in many families throughout Ireland, where people with neurological problems are not getting the rehabilitation they need.

The Neurological Alliance of Ireland (NAI), an umbrella group for 30 neurological charities, is running a campaign called We Need Our Heads Examined, which demands proper rehabilitation therapies for Irish people.

Mr Harris invited Natalie and the NAI to meet in November. Natalie said he assured her he would do what he could about her mother's needs and he told the NAI he would work to get plans implemented to provide more services for people with neurological conditions.

Another meeting between the minister, Natalie and the NAI has been arranged for next month.

NAI executive director Mags Rogers told the Herald: "Vera has been let down by the State at all stages. She continues to be let down on an ongoing basis. We're aware of hundreds of cases like Vera's."

She said there are 80,000 people in Ireland with severe disabilities caused by neurological conditions who are in need of rehabilitation. "But less than one in six of them are getting any rehabilitation," she added.

The National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire is far too small to provide the services that are needed.

"The hospital is being rebuilt but there is no increase in the number of beds. The new building will only have 120 beds like the old one.


"But more than twice that number is needed to serve the Irish population," she said.

A national strategy for neuro- rehabilitation services was completed in 2015, but no action has been taken to implement the policy, she added.

A spokesperson for Mr Harris said: "The minister absolutely intends to meet with Natalie again in the next few weeks and his office has been in touch this week to arrange that meeting.

"The minister has also prioritised the publication of a new implementation plan for a neuro-rehabilitation strategy and this has been included in the HSE's Service Plan for 2017.

"This is a vital step in ensuring we improve rehabilitation services and supports for people who have suffered a stroke or neurological condition."

Meanwhile, Vera's condition continues to deteriorate.

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