Thursday 19 September 2019

Parents 'ecstatic' as toddler who suffered serious brain injury in hit-and-run to be transferred back to Cork

Paul Higgins with son Zac (2)
Paul Higgins with son Zac (2)

Ralph Riegel

THE parents of a toddler who suffered a complex brain injury after being knocked down in a hit and run revealed he is to be transferred back to Cork from a Dublin hospital after making a miraculous recovery.

It had initially been thought Zac Higgins (2) had escaped brain trauma in the incident as he played by his Cork home on March 25 while suffering multiple bruises and fractures.

The driver of a blue Mazda 6 fled the scene after knocking down the little boy off Cork's Skehard Road - with his mother initially believing her son was only a little ball lying by the roadside.

Zac was later diagnosed with a complex brain injury - and was initially so ill he couldn’t talk, walk or even hold his head upright.

Zac Higgins is now 'smiling and laughing'
Photo: Red FM/Neil Prendeville
Zac Higgins is now 'smiling and laughing' Photo: Red FM/Neil Prendeville

His mother Aisling Sexton has now revealed that doctors in Dublin's Temple Street Hospital  are happy for little Zac to be transferred to Cork University Hospital.

“We are ecstatic - we just cannot believe it,” Aisling explained.

“Zac will be close to home so we can have some kind of family life.”

“We are so grateful to the doctors in Dublin but it is wonderful to be getting Zac back to Cork.”

When surgeons initially attempted to revive the little boy from the medically induced coma they realised something was wrong.

Subsequent specialist tests revealed little Zac had suffered a Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI) whereby the brain suffered impact trauma and lesions later formed.

"He is doing so well considering where he was. He wasn't even holding his head up last month.”

"It is lots of rehab, really. No one knows what is going to happen in the future. Because of the nature of that injury, it is a waiting game."

"Zac will tell us what he can and cannot do. We are now hoping and praying for a miracle," Aisling said.

Zac suffers from occasional tremors due to his injury but these can be treated in Cork.

"We just don't know what the future is going to hold. Zac is very young so that is in his favour. But every individual responds to a DAI differently."

"The rehab work at the moment is all sensory - trying to get him to respond."

"He is smiling, laughing - he has made such great progress.”

"All we can do is hope - it is going to be a long road but it is better to have a long road than no road at all."

"They are amazing here (Temple Street). He is getting fantastic support."

"But we are exhausted from travelling up and down from Cork and living out of bags."

Aisling and her partner, Paul Higgins, acknowledged the past few weeks has been like "a nightmare that you just cannot wake up from."

"When they (surgeons) tried to take him out of the coma, they couldn't," she explained.

"It didn't work out and they were not happy with him. They did an MRI scan which showed up that he had a DAI brain injury."

"Basically, the impact causes lesions on the brain. Nobody knows how he will recover from it. It is up to the individual - every case is different."

"I would hope that because he is so young he had a chance. He is feisty so please God he will get there. But we just don't know."

"It is a waiting game and it will be a lot of rehabilitation. No matter what, it will be a very long road."

Aisling admitted the 24 hours after doctors attempted to revive Zac from the coma was like torture.

"We are praying for a miracle now every day, praying to Holy God and to Padre Pio."

Zac was injured in the hit and run incident off Cork's Skehard Road on March 25.

Gardaí arrested a young man in connection with the incident but later released him without charge.

A file will now be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Paul and Aisling said they have been "totally overwhelmed" by messages of support, gifts and offers of special excursions for Zac once he recovers.

A GoFundMe campaign was launched for Zac with the aim of raising

€50,000 to help the family with their medical, travel and rehabilitation costs.

Cork sports groups have rallied to help the toddler.

Little Zac was left with multiple critical injuries when he was struck by Mazda saloon shortly before 4pm as he played near his Castle Meadows home.

The car, which had four occupants, fled the scene and left the toddler semi-conscious on the roadway.

Zac was initially rushed to Cork University Hospital (CUH) before being transferred by ambulance to Temple Street Children's Hospital in Dublin for specialist care.

His horrified mother initially thought her injured son was just "a little ball lying on the road."

Zac was hailed by his father, Paul, as "a little warrior."

The furious father also slated as "heartless bastards" the occupants of the car that left his son lying critically injured in the roadway.

The GoFundMe campaign was launched with the support of local friends and family including Zac's uncle, Alan, family friends Councillor

Chris O'Leary and Sean Fitzgerald as well as Ringmahon Rangers chairman Vincent Noonan.

Paul and Aisling have two other children, Max (7) and Belle (4).

People wishing to support Zac can donate at or via a special account at St Michael's Credit Union IBAN - IE8MICI99222419052804 BIC - MICIIE21.

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