Five years ago on 17 September 2010, just having started school, Jack had a fall down the stairs and though he didn't hit his head and there were no visible signs of any damage, his dad took him to the GP and after a check he was sent home. The doctor however, wasn't to know that there was a tear in his carotid artery from the whiplash effect of the fall. There was no obvious symptoms until the next day while out shopping in TK Maxx store in Bridgewater, Arklow. Jack got a headache and had a glazed look in his eyes. He was upset and then his eyes began to roll and his body shake, before he collapsed. He was taken by ambulance to Crumlin and then onto Temple Street hospital where he was placed on a spinal board. Unfortunately, on route he had took a stroke in the ambulance, though at the time we didn't know.
Jack had left side weakness, even in his face you could see the effect. Things worsened for him in the ensuing days where it was touch and go, he transferred to Beaumont for five days, but with blood thinning, the clot dissolved and he pulled through. He spent seven weeks back in Temple Street hospital where he got on his feet, though weak, and with improvements in his speech etc things started to look up. Even his dimple on the left side of his face slowly came back!
At that stage he needed intensive therapies to make him better and he was able to access these at the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) where he spent three and a half months working with physiotherapists, speech & language therapist and occupational therapists. It was a tough winter coming and going to Dublin daily for all the family, through the really bad snow we had that year. Jack was able to start back at school after mid-term where initially he did two hours a day and built hours up from there.
All the while his sister Leah encouraged and supported him in all the best ways only a close sibling can. She had missed him terribly while he was away in hospital.
Jack began his relationship with Enable Ireland in March 2011 and he has gone from strength to strength since. He gets great support, as do we as a family, from the team of physios, speech and language and occupational therapists. Occasionally, as he develops he can engage too with psychology services when the need arises. As parents we have also accessed workshops run by the social work team and they have been valuable too. His therapies were initially three times weekly but he has now progressed to three times monthly, which indicates how far he has come. His home programmes are vitally important and contribute hugely to his progress. His therapists always encourage and support Jack's efforts. He gives 100% to all of his exercises and tasks set for him. Jack wears a DMO (Dynamic Movement Orthosis) on his left arm and wears a foot splint to support his left leg. As he grows and develops these require changing and his therapists work with him intensively at these times.
Enable Ireland are a huge support for his educational needs too and offer advice to his school and are available to his teachers when required. They are needed in many supports whether it’s with physical needs, hand-writing, resource programmes, social skills or advice in sport activities and their input has proved to be invaluable.
Though everyday has different challenges, Jack applies himself wholeheartedly and with a smile. These qualities were rewarded back in December 2013 when he received an award for "child courage" from the Irish Heart Foundation. He is very proud of that and thoroughly enjoyed making a short piece of film which featured him at home and at school.
Jack has learned to ride his bike in the last year with the help of his physio and cycles to school as often as weather permits. He does a bit of running with his local athletic club and has attended horse riding in Brennenstown, Bray through Enable Ireland and continues locally now. He's learning to swim and is trying out some hockey skills after school, all of which help with his physio requirements.
As the recent anniversary of his accident came we were glad to acknowledge how far Jack has come in that time, in terms of his achievements and how resilient a young boy he is and how he has met his challenges in life with the support of his family, his school and of course with Enable Ireland. They have all made a world of difference and we look to the future with positivity and enthusiasm for the challenges ahead.
You can see a video of Jack and the Child Courage Award by visiting You Tube.