herald

Saturday 24 August 2019

'I realised life is not fair after fatal crash in France', says Vicky

Campaigner Vicky Phelan
Campaigner Vicky Phelan

Vicky Phelan has spoken about losing her boyfriend and two friends in a car crash which left her with severe injuries.

The cervical cancer campaigner (45), from Limerick, who is currently being treated with wonder drug Pembro, was involved in the "really bad car accident" in 1994 in France.

She had to spend nearly four months in hospital after breaking 70pc of the bones in the left side of her body.

"I was only 19. It was the first big thing that happened in my life that made me realise I'm not invincible and life is not fair," Ms Phelan said.

"These things either make you or break you. At the time of the car crash, I had to grow up very quickly.

"I lost three friends. I had to do a lot of rehab. It shapes you, you see the fragility of life."

Ms Phelan praised the French health system but experienced problems when she was transferred to Ireland.

A host of French specialists had taken up to half an hour each to explain the treatment she had received and a care plan going forward for Ireland.

Most notably, she had been advised specifically not to sit up for two weeks or "I would damage my pelvis".

However, as soon as she arrived into an Irish hospital, Ms Phelan claims she was told by an orthopaedic surgeon here the exact opposite.

"It was the first time I challenged the medical profession after my car crash," she said.

"He [the surgeon] looked at my files and said 'we'll have a physio and have you out of that bed tomorrow'.

"I said 'no, you won't'. I said 'excuse me, I'm going to go with the doctor who did the procedure in France. He said I was not to sit up for weeks'.

"I said 'there's no way I'm getting up until whatever date it was'. He [the surgeon] turned on his heel and marched out of the ward."

Attitude

"He was like a demon. He wrote in my report I had an attitude problem.

"I'd lost three of my friends, including my boyfriend, and I had all these injuries and all he could see was I had an attitude problem," she added.

"But I stuck to my guns, that was my first foray into standing up for myself against an authority figure."

Ms Phelan, who was speaking to the Love and Courage podcast, said despite her terminal diagnosis: "I've lived more in the past year than I had in the last eight years. I feel so well."

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