A DISABLED lady faces an uncertain future after 36 years in a rural hospital that is now under threat of closure.
Mary Staunton, a wheelchair-bound 58-year-old mum of one from Wicklow town, survived against all odds after a horrific car crash in 1972.
Mary, who had just become a mum for the first time, was returning home to Wicklow from Holles Street maternity hospital in Dublin with new daughter Patrice when the accident, which left her severely brain damaged and in need of constant medical care, occurred. Baby Patrice was violently thrown from the car when it collided head-on with another vehicle outside Bray.
Emergency services personnel only discovered the newborn infant, wrapped in her Moses basket with not a scratch on her, in a ditch after her mother had been removed from the scene.
However, mum Mary suffered massive blood loss and injuries to her body and head, which left her in a coma for months. She spent two years in the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire.
Doctors were astounded when the Wicklow woman pulled through, but because of the extent of her injuries she has required medical care ever since. The majority of her care has been provided at the now-threatened Wicklow District Hospital for the past 36 years.
Now Mary, who has not been told of the controversy for fear of how it will affect her, faces another battle -- after the HSE refused to rule out the closure of the facility in which she has remained since 1974.
Her daughter, Patrice Evans (nee Staunton), a mum of two, who was raised by her grandmother following the accident, has been at the forefront of a local campaign to keep the hospital open.
This is despite the fact that she has been fighting a severe form of malignant melanoma cancer, which she still has not received the all-clear from.
Hospital sources have indicated that staff at the unit -- which is a small residential unit for older people with day care and respite programmes -- have been told to prepare for the worst following a damming structural report on the facility.
Yesterday Patrice led a community protest, saying the hospital is in 100 per cent working order and that there has never been any issues with the care of her mother, the patient in situ the longest.
"I understand that the country is in a bad way and that the cuts have to fall somewhere, but what kind people are the HSE that they are even considering uprooting or tossing out people like my mother, who are voiceless and powerless?" she asked.