herald

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Sean has no movement, he faces years in wheelchair

HORROR: Shot schoolboy (6) has no feeling from his chest down as family pray he'll walk again, writes Luke Byrne

Gillian Scully with son Sean
Gillian Scully with son Sean

A SCHOOLBOY shot by accident last month is facing a long period in a wheelchair, but his family hope that he will walk again.

Six-year-old Sean Scully was shot while playing with friends on a green near his house in Croftwood Gardens, Ballyfermot, west Dublin, on June 13. The gunman, who was attempting to shoot someone else in the vicinity, went on the run following the shooting.

The little boy's mother Gillian Scully has revealed how Sean suffered spinal injuries in the shooting, but how he was lucky that his spinal chord was only bruised by the bullet - not severed.

"He still has no movement. We're just trying to keep him pain-free, here in the hospital," Ms Scully said.

Speaking to Joe Duffy on RTE radio's LiveLine, Ms Scully explained how the family had returned from Thunder Road Cafe, where they were celebrating his older bother Shane's birthday, on the night of the shooting.

They took the bus home before Sean asked if he could play football with his friends.

PLAYING

"We had only got off the bus at 10 o'clock. When we walked over, a few of the kids were playing out so Sean played for a minute.

"I went in, the door was open and within five minutes it happened.

"We heard a bang, but as you probably know up there, there has been a lot of stolen cars and that, so we thought it was a car.

"We ran out and the kids were running in. They were just screaming, it was just bedlam," Ms Scully said.

"Sean was on the ground, he was awake, he was asking 'help me up, help me up'.

"There were just crowds, we don't know where the people came from. It was just chaos," she said.

Ms Scully explained how her older son could see what had happened and was asking for help, but she was expecting an older boy to be on the ground. "When we ran out it was Sean," she said.

Though Sean had been shot in the neck, Ms Scully said: "He didn't realise. He just said 'help me up, can you get me up?'

"He didn't know what was after happening to him then at that stage," she explained.

The gardai and ambulance arrived quickly and Ms Scully praised their work.

"I thought he was gone, when people were trying to talk to him, you know to keep him awake and that.

"His eyes would roll and I thought he would go any second. I didn't know what to think," she said.

On the way to the hospital and after he had arrived, Ms Scully said that Sean was talking and was responsive.

The mother explained how the bullet had gone through her son's neck and to his spine before lodging at the top of his back left rib.

"They operated on the Sunday and they got that out but it damaged the top of his spine," she said.

The family was told that night that doctors weren't sure what was going to happen ahead of the three-hour operation to fit plates into his spine.

"They had told us this operation is just to try and help, it probably won't help, but his spinal chord wasn't damaged, but it was severely bruised," Ms Scully said.

She added that if the spinal chord was nicked, her son would never have been able to walk again.

"Because it's severely bruised, they're hopeful for, eventually, a few steps. Now they said he'd never get back to normal, but well we're hopeful too."

ORDEAL

The whole ordeal has left the youngster confused and Ms Scully said that Sean has asked what happened to him.

"At that stage I didn't want to tell him, I didn't want to frighten him.

"I just wanted to make out to him that it wasn't his fault that no one wanted to hurt him," she said.

To date just one person has been arrested in connection with the incident. However that was in relation to withholding information from gardai.

Meanwhile, Sean has been suffering from nightmares and flashbacks since the horrifying incident.

His lungs are also very weak so he remains on machines to help him to clear his throat.

"He's in a wheelchair definitely. He's hoisted to a wheelchair, we can't even lift him," Ms Scully said, adding that he had no feeling from his chest down.

Doctors hope that he will soon gain the upper body strength that will allow him to push the wheelchair and the family accept that a wheelchair will be part of their lives for a long time.

Sean will be transferred in around six weeks to the National Rehabilitation Hospital, in Dun Laoghaire.

"His life's changed forever now and even though they said they're hopeful for a few steps, it could be five or six years down the line before he might," his mother said.

Ms Scully said that people were shocked when they heard about what happened to her son. Even though her family have nothing to do with crime, she feels she has to explain.

HORRIFIC

"I feel like I kind of need to let people know that. I know they're probably not judging me, but that's how I feel," she said.

Sean plays with his PlayStation computer in Our Lady's Children's Hospital Crumlinand his mother brings him a new toy every day.

"He's going to suffer for a long time. A lot of people have been asking how he is. He's good in himself, so people think he's doing well. But he has an extremely long road ahead of him. The injuries are horrific," she said.

Gillian has quit her part-time job to look after Sean fulltime.

lbyrne@herald.ie

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