Dermot Hennessy: head injuries

THE family of a man left with severe head injuries after a new year's day hit-and-run accident has been told they will have to wait indefinitely for the provision of specialist care.

Dermot Hennessy (26) has been in a partial coma for the past eight months since being struck by a car in Mullingar, Co Westmeath. He has been confined to a hospital bed and although his eyes can open and look around he has not been able to communicate with his family or friends since the accident.

Now the Hennessy family says that his transfer to the specialist Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) hospital in Dún Laoghaire, Dublin, is the only way he can hope to recover further.

"It's just so frustrating; he is such a strong fella," his brother Paul told the Sunday Tribune. "He pulled through the first few days and now we are saying maybe he could make more of a recovery but he can only do so much and he needs that bit of extra help. We need to get him in there and we are wondering why we can't. Why is it so slow?"

For the time being, Hennessy is at the Midland Regional Hospital in Mullingar, where his family say he is receiving excellent care but not the specialised rehabilitation he requires.

"In Mullingar he is getting physiotherapy but [Dún Laoghaire] is more intense. The staff are more specialised than in a regional hospital," said Paul Hennessy. "He is lying in bed – his head may move a little bit and his eyes will follow you around the room but there is no communicating with him. There is no talking. It's a nightmare. It's just been upside down for the last eight months; it's taken over."

Dermot, a keen footballer with a thriving social life, was out on New Year's Eve when he was hit by a car. While he has been to Dún Laoghaire for assessment, there are currently just two beds in place to offer him the type of treatment he requires and both are occupied.

Paul Hennessy is critical of a lack of funding for Irish healthcare: "I didn't realise how badly they [hospitals] are needed," he said. "Healthcare in general – there isn't enough investment in it. It seems to be underfunded or badly run. In the hospital he will get the best care but it seems so hard to get into it."

Last month, a planning application was lodged with Meath County Council for a new centre for Acquired Brain Injury treatment at Kinnegad. If it gets the go-ahead, it would eventually offer the same rehabilitation for patients, with some 75 beds.