Monday 22 October 2018

'We will do whatever we have to do to get him back' - Wife of assaulted Liverpool fan Sean Cox tells of long road ahead

Martina with Sean, who suffered severe brain injuries
Martina with Sean, who suffered severe brain injuries
John Greene

John Greene

The wife of Sean Cox, the Irish Liverpool fan assaulted before a Champions League game last April, has spoken for the first time about the life-changing impact on their family.

The 53-year-old father of three was left fighting for his life after being hit from behind in a random attack just outside Liverpool's Anfield stadium minutes before a semi-final clash with Roma.

Mr Cox suffered severe brain injuries and has been in hospital since the assault.

Speaking to Independent.ie, his wife Martina said his injuries were "catastrophic" and "life-changing for everybody".

Mr Cox was transferred from Beaumont Hospital, where he has been treated since he was repatriated to Ireland from Liverpool at the end of May, to the National Rehabilitation Centre in Dun Laoghaire last Wednesday.

However, after the 12-week intensive work at the NRC is concluded, Sean and his family will effectively be on their own and using their own resources to pay for the future intensive rehab that will be required, possibly abroad.

Liverpool players carry a banner supporting Mr Cox at a friendly with Napoli in August. Picture: Sportsfile
Liverpool players carry a banner supporting Mr Cox at a friendly with Napoli in August. Picture: Sportsfile

A major fundraising effort is underway with an initial target of €2m.

Although he has recovered some movement in his right arm and right leg, he can only be put in a wheelchair with the aid of a hoist.

Mr Cox has only managed to speak a few words since coming out of a medically induced coma over the summer.

"He can see but his sight is compromised," says Martina. "He probably has double or treble vision. He can see us when we come in but if you show him a small photograph it's probably a bit hazy to him.

"His hearing seems fine. People go in and tell him stories and he's laughing and smiling but he can't communicate with us. That's probably one of the worst things about all this."

This week, Martina and other family members will travel to England, where the trial of an Italian football fan accused of inflicting injury on Mr Cox is expected to begin on Thursday at Preston Crown Court.

Filippo Lombardi, a 21-year-old Italian, faces a charge of wounding or inflicting grievous bodily harm on Mr Cox, of Dunboyne, Co Meath, but originally from Clondalkin, Co Dublin, on April 24 last. Mr Lombardi denies the charge. Last month he entered a guilty plea at Preston Crown Court on a charge of violent disorder.

Donations to the SupportSean campaign can be made at  http://www.gofundme.com/SupportSeanCox

In August, a 29-year-old Roma fan admitted a charge of violent disorder. Daniele Sciusco, from Rome, was jailed for two and a half years at Preston Crown Court.

Videos posted on social media on the night of the game showed a group of Roma fans, known as the Ultras, dressed in dark clothing outside the stadium, becoming involved in outbursts of violence.

Some covered their faces and some were seen to be wielding leather belts as weapons.

Martina Cox will travel with her son Jack, 21, to Preston, along with members of Sean's family. "I need to go," she told Independent.ie. "I need to be there for Sean to support him."

She added: "I know Sean would do it for me. I just feel I should be there. It's just part of the process; it has to be done."

She says her husband is facing a long road and such is the extent of his injuries that there is no way of knowing what sort of recovery he will make.

"Sean is going to need extensive rehab for a very long time to get him to where he needs to be, or to be the best that he can be now," she says.

After weeks of uncertainty, the family was relieved that Mr Cox was finally transferred last week to the rehab centre in Dun Laoghaire, where he has now begun an intensive programme.

"They say you never get back the same person but obviously we're going to try and push him," she says.

"We want Sean back as best we can so we will do whatever we have to do to get him to the optimum level."

She added that once his specially designed programme in Dun Laoghaire is complete, "you are on your own" and "after that, it's private".

"Obviously we want the best for Sean, we may look into Germany. We've been told that Germany is a particularly good place in terms of rehabilitation. We have to look at every option at this point because Sean deserves to get the best care."

In the wake of the attack, Mr Cox spent almost five weeks in the Walton Centre in Liverpool, an internationally recognised centre of excellence in the treatment of brain injuries.

Martina was by her husband's side for every day of that stay, while other family members, including their children Jack, Shauna and Emma, were part of a rota helping to mount a bedside vigil.

She says that Liverpool Football Club helped the family during this difficult time but that given what is facing the family in the years ahead, they will have to "reach out" to the club.

"Yes, Liverpool assisted us on the practicalities while we were in Liverpool, in terms of flights and accommodation," she says.

"There was communication when we went back to Dublin. Their liaison officer came over twice and I met him but at this point that's all we've really had.

"I think now, given what we know about Sean's recovery and the long road, and the rehab that's ahead of him, we are going to have to reach out to them in some way."

The reality facing the family is that funding, likely to run to millions of euro, will be required to give Mr Cox the care and rehabilitation needed to have any quality of life.

The family does not have those kind of resources, so a large-scale fundraising campaign is being launched with an initial target of €2m.

Mr Cox has been an active and prominent member of the St Peter's GAA club in Dunboyne and previously served as club chairman. Two of his close friends - Fergus McNulty, the current club chairman, and Stephen Felle, a director of stockbrokers Davy - are part of a committee assembled to raise money to help fund Mr Cox's rehab.

The SupportSean campaign will kick off with a fun-run in Dunboyne on October 29. A programme of events will take place in the coming months.

Donations to the SupportSean campaign can be made at  http://www.gofundme.com/SupportSeanCox

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