Bray People

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A car for Neassa


Neassa Sugrue with her children Bláithín and Adónai

Neassa Sugrue with her children Bláithín and Adónai

Neassa Sugrue with her children Bláithín and Adónai


Neassa Johnston Sugrue is like any other mother of two, driving them to all of their activities, to school, to the doctor, and to do the shopping.

However unlike other parents, it takes over eleven minutes for her to prepare for any of the numerous daily journeys she must take.

The Enniskerry woman has had arthritis since she was four years old and for the past number of years has been in her wheelchair full-time. She is campaigning for funds to provide her and her family with an appropriate car for their needs, including a lift that can get her chair directly to the driving seat.

'I need to maintain the mobility that I have to look after my kids. Without getting this car, that's not going to happen. If I keep having to put the chair in and out, close the boot and try to get to the driver's seat, I know with the way my body works I'm going to lose all my joints.'

After 37 operations to date, every one of Neassa's joints have been replaced except her toes.

'They're not going to last. They are all going to loosen or break with what I'm doing. This is not a want, it's a necessity for me and my family, for my children to have as normal a life as possible.'

Bray Lions Club is spearheading the drive to provide a vehicle for the family.

'We were so moved by her need, by her the person, that we just had to act,' said club president Jerry Teehan.

Neassa and her husband Henry have lived in Enniskerry for the past 14 years. They have two children - Bláithín (11) and Adónai (5), both of whom go to Scoil Chualann in Bray.

They fought for many years to get their beautiful children, Bláithín from Vietnam and Adónai from Ethiopia, and Neassa's first priority, 100 per cent of the time, is their wellbeing, happiness, and future.

'What I need is a car that has a lift. You drive on to the lift, it brings you up and you drive in to steer from your chair. I also need seats in the car. What has been recommended is a Volkswagen Transporter or something like that.'

At the moment she has to take her chair apart, taking off the lights, the arm and the neck, and placing them on the ground. She must take the hoist out, attach four strings and straps with hooks on to the chair, hoist it in, then put all the bits back in to the car. 'Actually I do find them all very heavy.'

Then the process must be done in reverse when taking the chair out.

'It's not just the time, it's wearing on my joints. I had a second elbow put in last November and they don't know how long it's going to last. I shouldn't be doing any of that,' said Neassa.

She uses a string wrapped around her hand to pull the boot closed, and on one occasion last year she suffered a head injury. 'I couldn't move out of the way quick enough as I was pulling it down.'

Getting around from the back of the car to the driver's seat is also potentially dangerous. 'I have the splint let to put on to allow me to put the chair in and to get around to the side of the car. My balance is very bad and I do lose my balance trying to do this and using a crutch. It's quite difficult and it's frightening for the children as they're afraid I'm going to fall.'

If she breaks a bone, it won't heal well because she has been on steroids since her arthritis was diagnosed at the age of 12.

She tolerates constant pain. 'There's always pain,' she said. 'But you're used to it. Then there's "flare-up" pain which is different again.'

Growing up she recalls being paralysed with pain at times. 'You had to be fed and dressed.'

Her parents could do little to ease that discomfort. 'I reckon it must have been hard for my mother. As a parent now, I actually really feel for my own parents. I have to say they were brilliant. While protecting me, they didn't make it obvious. I was one of seven children and they were all brilliant.'

She did everything that everyone else was doing, while spending periods of time in or out of her wheelchair. 'You could be in it a few months, or it could have been a year.

'I'm just over three years full time in the wheelchair now and I've been told I'll never walk again.'

However none of this has remotely dampened Neassa's spirits or discouraged her from getting on with her life.

The summer holidays are fast approaching, and as well as all of the usual errands that must be done, Neassa wants to get out and about with them as much as possible. But it all takes planning.

'I'll be thinking through what needs to be done, so you don't need to be putting the chair in and out.' You can't just run out for a pint of milk. 'Sometimes you have to put things on the long finger.

'You learn an awful lot of patience when you're in a wheelchair,' said Neassa. 'At times when I can't do things I'd have to wait for people. Or you go in somewhere and things have to be moved. You can't get in somewhere because of a step. Also you go in places and they might have high stools so your friends or family are sitting at a higher level. People can walk into you, and you're saying sorry because the chair is bigger, but they've actually walked into me.'

She is patient though, and devoted to her family. If anyone can help, go to, or by bank transfer to AIB account number 30914352, sort code 933 34 81.

Cheque donations can be posted to Bray Lions Club, c/o 1 Rosslyn Court, Killarney Road, Bray.