“Aengus had a football accident. He was playing indoor soccer in Sligo when he banged his head on a wall and suffered what they call a C1 spinal injury. It’s a high neck injury and it meant Aengus was paralysed.”

Kay Lyons has spent more time in the Mater Hospital than most. But she wasn’t there as a patient; instead, she was practically living in the hospital to be with her son, Aengus.

After Aengus suffered his injury, he was rushed to the National Spinal Injuries Unit in the Mater Hospital for surgery. His condition was critical upon arrival to the Intensive Care Unit, and he was put on a ventilator to keep him breathing. For Aengus, Kay, her husband, and their daughter, it was a life shattering experience.

With such a serious injury, Aengus was a high-risk patient and needed immediate and extremely specialised surgery in the National Spinal Injury Unit of the Mater Hospital.

“Aengus had major surgery, and he was in ICU for about six weeks. All of that time we were with him. We were staying in the hostel, which the nurses said we could use. It was so important to be close to him,” says Kay.

The Mater Hostel provides accommodation for families of seriously ill patients, usually those living too far away from Dublin to return home every day. With a kitchen, private bedrooms, and a living area, it’s a place of quiet away from the busy hospital.

“We were in the hostel for about two years and I can’t speak highly enough about how much of a benefit it was to us. The main thing was to be near Aengus. Just for us to be able to read him the newspapers and sit by his bedside. The hostel gave us that opportunity. Otherwise we’d never have been able to afford staying there for so long.”

One of the complex surgeries Aengus received by the specialised staff was the implant of phrenic nerve stimulators. These implants stimulate the lungs so Aengus can breathe without the need to be connected to a ventilator, and they would also give him freedom to leave the hospital for several hours at a time. The surgery – only the second time it had been carried out in Ireland – was complex and high-risk, but Aengus got on well, and was eventually weaned off the ventilator.

The implants have made an immense difference to his life. As Aengus is a huge soccer fan, the staff in the Spinal Unit took him to the Aviva Stadium to see Ireland play an international game, bringing some independence back into his life after such a difficult few years.

“Aengus can get out and about now that he’s back with us in Sligo. We can bring him out to restaurants or to the cinema, and he’s been to the seaside and places like that,” says Kay. “I can’t speak highly enough of what the Mater’s Spinal Unit did for Aengus, and what the hostel did for us.”

The Mater Foundation supports the National Spinal Injury Unit at the Mater Hospital by purchasing state-of-the-art medical equipment, upgrading patient facilities, and investing in research. Donate today to make a lifesaving difference for spinal injury patients.

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