Tuesday 20 February 2018

Young mother with 'Locked-in Syndrome' home

Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

THE family of a young mother suffering from Locked-In Syndrome for six years have vowed never to lose hope so long "as there is a spark in her beautiful eyes."

Catherine O'Leary (39) celebrated an emotional homecoming to her family after they campaigned for six years to transform it into a mini-Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Patrick and Margaret O'Leary have adapted their home - at an estimated cost of more than €100,000 - so their beloved daughter can live at home rather than in the hospitals and nursing homes in which she has been based since 2008.

The couple wept tears of joy yesterday as Catherine came home for good, though she will still have to make regular visits for check-ups to Cork University Hospital (CUH).

"We will never, ever give up hope or fighting for what is best for Catherine so long as there is a spark in her beautiful eyes," her mother said.

Catherine's father, Pat, admitted the family has endured an emotional roller-coaster over the past six years.

"It has been tough but we have to do the best for Catherine. And we have never stopped hoping and praying," he said.

Catherine developed 'Locked-In Syndrome' after two strokes and is now effectively paralysed from the neck down.

She can only communicate by blinking and has no other movement.

For six years she has been cared for in Irish and UK hospitals but, after a tireless fundraising campaign, her family are now able to care for her full time at their Carrigaline home.

"It was very emotional…it was something we had hoped would happen for a long, long time," her father Pat said.

"It was great for my wife Margaret and I to have her in the next room. I know she loves being home and we love having her here full time," he added.

Catherine suffered two devastating strokes during surgery in February 2008 to remove a non-malignant brain tumour.

The tumour was detected after Catherine, who has a 13-year-old son called Brandon, complained of difficulty in swallowing, repeated headaches and dizziness.

The strokes left Catherine, a former restaurant manager, a prisoner in her own body - even though she is aware of what goes on around her.

Her medical condition is such that she requires round-the-clock care.

The O'Learys adapted their home to Catherine's needs with the construction of an extension, a wet room, a hoist and wheelchair-accessible rooms.

Irish Independent

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