Friday 19 January 2018

'Conor's life has basically come to a standstill -- and he's only 16'

Mary Fitzpatrick's son Conor was diagnosed with narcolepsy in 2010
Mary Fitzpatrick's son Conor was diagnosed with narcolepsy in 2010
Mary Fitzpatrick, Chairman of the Sufferers of Unique Narcolepsy Disorder

Sam Griffin

LIFE has stood still for the Fitzpatrick family during the past four years.

Everything changed for them four years ago this week, when Mary Fitzpatrick's son received the Pandemrix swine flu vaccination.

Conor Fitzpatrick (16), from Ballymun in Dublin, was diagnosed with narcolepsy in 2010 after his family noticed extreme changes in his behaviour and general health.

"He started falling asleep uncontrollably, he started having massive hallucinations, and anytime he experienced any emotion at all he collapsed to the ground, and all of this suddenly started happening in the space of a few months," Mary told the Irish Independent last night.

"It affected his social life, his emotional development, and his education because one of the features would be a loss in concentration, and of course falling asleep, as well as just zoning out."

Mary, who is chairperson of the national support group SOUND (Sufferers of Unique Narcolepsy Disorder), said the condition has had a devastating affect on her son's mental health and he had to be admitted to a psychiatric unit where he has been for a year.

"He stopped wanting to go out and every part of his life was affected immediately," she said. "It did have a really extreme affect on Conor's mental health. About a year and a half ago, he had to be admitted to a mental health unit where he has more or less been ever since.

"He's been home for periods of time but basically his life is on standstill, and he's only 16," she said.

Medication can help with the symptoms and these have lessened the suffering for some of the identified 60 people affected since receiving the vaccination.

However, Mary, who welcomes the HSE's reversal, says Conor has not been able to attend school since being admitted.

"My hope is that he will be able to get back to education eventually but ultimately he's not going to be there with his classmates to graduate and that has a huge impact on him. He's known them since he was four, and now that's it. He's left behind."

Irish Independent

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