Wednesday 20 February 2019

'I said look, why don't you amputate the legs?' - Brian Crowley MEP forced to retire due to medical issues

Brian Crowley has been forced to retire from European Parliament
Brian Crowley has been forced to retire from European Parliament

Ralph Riegel

Ireland South MEP Brian Crowley (54) has revealed medical issues arising from his 39 years spent in a wheelchair left him with no option but to retire from the European Parliament.

Mr Crowley, who admitted to the Irish Independent in 2013 that he had asked in vain for doctors to amputate his legs, has been unable to attend a single session of the current European Parliament due to ongoing health complications.

At a special press conference in Cork today, he confirmed he will be stepping down as a European Parliament member after 25 years service and will not contest next May's Euro elections.

The Cork politician - who topped the poll in all five European Parliament elections he contested since 1994 - was brokenhearted his health left him so far unable to fulfill his lifelong ambition of contesting a Presidential election.

The Bandon native has been confined to a wheelchair since he was left paralysed after suffering spinal injuries as a teenager in a freak 1980 fall.

His health issues have been very severe over recent years.

Brian Crowley, Liadh ni Riada and Gerry Adams at MEP South at the Euro Count centre, Nemo, Cork
Brian Crowley, Liadh ni Riada and Gerry Adams at MEP South at the Euro Count centre, Nemo, Cork

"Is this what I wanted? No it is not. I wanted to be out in Brussels and Strasbourg but I was not able to.

"I have been in hospital for a long period of time - over three and a half years with a number of surgeries," he said.

"Because of that I could not attend the Parliament in Strasbourg.

"I have now made a decision that I will continue in my office up until May 1 but I will not be contesting or allowing my name to go forward for the next European Parliament elections.

"I do not believe I would be in a position to run the type of campaign I would like to - I simply would not be able to do it (health-wise).

"Over the period of time I was in hospital, the work has not stopped. I was working from hospital and via my staff. I was working through my contacts within the EU Commision and EU Pariament that I have built up for almost 30 years."

The 54 year old has spent the bulk of his time since the 2014 European Parliament election being treated in hospital, mostly for complications arising from wheelchair-related pressure sores on his legs.

In the space of just two years, Mr Crowley had to undergo 25 different plastic surgery procedures.

He also suffered a major blow in 2009 of losing his younger brother, Flor, in a tragic car crash.

Until his health problems emerged in 2012, he had one of the best attendance records of any MEP in Brussels and Strasbourg.

However, his health problems have been so severe he was unable to attend a single session of the current European Parliament - boasting the lowest attendance record of all 750 MEPs.

He ranks as one of the European Parliament's long-serving MEPs and counts such political heavyweights as Ollie Rehn and Jose Manuel Barroso as amongst his Brussels friends.

“Initially, all the procedures I had done were cosmetic. They had to reconstruct part of the skin on my legs, do skin grafts, move muscle to try and give more protection to certain parts of my legs. Things like that,” he said.

“The difficulty was that each surgery had to be done separately and they had to wait for me to recover before they could undertake the next procedure. To recover I had to lie in bed in hospital."

"It was a special silica (sand) bed that was kept at a constant 18 degrees. The bed moves with you so that there is never any major pressure put on the skin of my legs,” he added.

The veteran MEP admitted that, at one point, he proposed that doctors amputate his legs to once-and-for-all, resolve the problem.

“I said look, why don’t you amputate the legs? The biggest problem most people have with amputation is how do I learn to walk again? That is not an issue for me per se. I’m not going to be walking again so the ability to learn how to re-walk with false limbs is not an issue.”

“But the doctors were against that. They said that if you do that it could change something else – it could alter things and have unforeseen consequences. It was the final, final option in their minds,” he added.

“I saw it as a quick, easy solution to deal with the problem but they were very much against doing something like that.”

Despite hoping that 17 plastic surgeries had finally resolved his skin problems by 2012, he suddenly found himself facing into a further eight procedures in 2013.

Even more procedures have been required since 2014. Despite this, the problem has significantly worsened.

“It was tough. I thought the problems had been resolved but it was decided that further procedures were required.”

“But I never stopped working on my telephone and my laptop. I've had tremendous support from other MEPs as well as from friends and supporters."

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