Tuesday 17 September 2019

'He's still there a week later' - man who suffered spinal injury in football match still waiting for urgent surgery

Paul Brazil (38), from Dublin 7, has been lying in a hospital bed in St James' Hospital all week in a neck brace
Paul Brazil (38), from Dublin 7, has been lying in a hospital bed in St James' Hospital all week in a neck brace
Laura Lynott

Laura Lynott

A man who suffered a serious spinal injury in a football match is still waiting on urgent surgery a week later due to a shortage of hospital beds.

Paul Brazil (38), from Dublin 7, has been lying in a hospital bed in St James's Hospital all week in a neck brace, unable to move in case he aggravates his injuries.

However, Paul needs to be transferred to the Mater Hospital for surgery to his spine.

St James's can't give him the specialist treatment he requires, and can't transfer him to the Mater Hospital as they haven't any beds available.

Paul was playing in a football match and sustained the serious injury after a tackle.

He and his family have been told he has a ruptured disc in his neck, and two breaks in his spine.

Paul Brazil (38), from Dublin 7, has been lying in a hospital bed in St James' Hospital all week in a neck brace
Paul Brazil (38), from Dublin 7, has been lying in a hospital bed in St James' Hospital all week in a neck brace

His sister Karen Brazil said her brother was "screaming in agony" when he was first injured, and an ambulance was called straight away.

He was rushed to St James's Hospital as it was the closest emergency department.

"The paramedics knew it was a spinal injury, they put his neck in a frame and put him on a board straight away.

"But they had to take him to the nearest hospital and St James’s doesn’t specialise in spinal injuries.

"Paul went to play the match at around 10.30 am and he had already seen by a doctor at St James’ by around 11.30 am. The doctor realised how bad the injury was when he examined my brother.

"The doctor said Paul needed to go to orthopedics at the Mater Hospital, as it has a spinal cord unit and this was a spinal injury.

"We were told it would be a day or two, it wouldn’t be long at all for Paul to be transferred because it was a bad injury and they (the medics) needed to get it sorted straight away.

"He has a ruptured disc in his neck, two breaks in his spine. in his vertebrae.

"But every day we have been told to wait and hang on, that he should be going over to the Mater later on and it never happens.

"He could damage himself 100 times worse waiting. He’s not on a spinal board, he’s on a bed flat, strapped in tightly. 

"We are asking every morning, constantly. Different members of the family are going up to the hospital asking is he being moved, when is he being moved," she continued.

"We are just told he should be going over today over and over.

"But he’s still there. 

"We keep being told there are no beds at the Mater but that he will be transferred soon.

"We’re worried how bad my brother will be because of this wait - could he be left paralysed?"

Paul's situation prompted one nurse at St James's Hospital to write an open letter to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Facebook.

In her post, the nurse, whom we have not named as we were unable to contact her, states: "Dear Taoiseach, this evening myself and another colleague of mine sat in our outpatient department waiting on a bed for our poor spinal patient.

"We mind him here as there are no beds… We both have young families and were off a few hours ago but we didn’t leave because of our duty of care. 

"We won’t see our children tonight to wrap them up and kiss them goodnight.  I'll get on my train home once again, a daily routine at this stage but I’ll be happy knowing that my patient will be sorted.

"He needs urgent spinal surgery which will be carried out by an orthopedic consultant…

"But in order for this man to have surgery... he has to be in a bed.  So Taoiseach...it’s not nursing staff that have caused the bed crisis… We are here keeping things going.  It is not the consultant or his team causing the crisis...they are ready to operate…

"Taoiseach there are NO beds!!!  Also I believe deep down your words will make us nurses strike.  And I myself will be at the front of the picket if it’s voted yes."

The nurse signed off; "A nurse who was due to finish but stayed, as there are no beds!"

Karen said she was heartened by the nurse’s Facebook post, as it highlighted "just how many good nurses we have in Ireland but they are being forced into an impossible situation."

"That nurse should have been able to go home to tuck her children into bed," Karen said.

"But she wanted to do the best and stay to look after my brother, the best she could. That’s just amazing but the system shouldn’t be that way.

"And my brother shouldn’t be waiting on a spinal operation for almost a week. I’m so worried this wait could lead him to actually be paralysed, that his life could be forever changed.

"My brother is in agony just lying there everyday waiting for an operation, to be transferred and we are no nearer to getting that.

"No one in the HSE is listening.

"And I will hold Simon Harris and the Taoiseach personally responsible if my brother ends up paralysed because of this wait.

"We need the health service to be fixed now not tomorrow.  We need proper care for our people.

"My brother is the most caring, charitable human being. He needs help and to be home soon with his family."

The Mater Hospital and St James's said it would not comment on individual cases.

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