BRAVE STRUGGLE Family of man who suffered brain injury in biking accident want to bring him home to give him best chance of recovery
Published THE SUN • Aoife Finneran • 9TH OCT 2020
THE family of a man who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a biking accident is urgently trying to bring him home to give him the best chance of recovery.
Des Vallely has been in hospital since January 8 and has only seen his children Daniel and Ella Rose three times because of Covid restrictions.
The 51-year-old is due for discharge from the National Rehabilitation Hospital next month, but his wife Tara Dalton says she cannot bear the thought of letting him go to a nursing home where his family won’t get to see him.
She has now taken matters into her own hands and launched an ambitious campaign to raise €400,000 to cover the cost of home nursing care for the next two years.
She explained: “Everyone says a huge amount of rehab is through family and loved ones and it’s very true in Des’ case.
“That’s one of the reasons why I’ve decided to bring him home.
“If he goes somewhere like the Royal Hospital in Donnybrook then for the foreseeable future we won’t be able to get in to him.
“I’m not allowed in to the NRH at the moment and that’s really difficult.
“I had been trying to decide what to do and when Level 3 was announced a few weeks ago, I walked out of the hospital knowing that I wasn’t going to see him for a while.
“I said: ‘that’s it. I’m bringing him home, although I don’t know how I’m going to do it.’
“He’s terribly lonely, so I know it’s the right thing to do. I need to give him the very best chance of recovering and that means being at home surrounded by his family.
“Even the fact that Ella Rose could go in to him at night and read a story, that would be something.”
The family’s nightmare began in January when Des came off his bike while travelling between two of the food markets which he and Tara run under Irish Village Markets.
She recalled: “He was cycling between markets to Spencer Dock.
“It was a lovely sunny day, and he went over the Samuel Beckett Bridge bridge and turned onto the river side of the quays.
“We don’t know what happened but he came off his bike and when he landed he hit his head off one of the half-moon shaped bollards.
“He had a cycling helmet, a motorbike jacket and a high-vis jacket, he was always very careful, but it wasn’t enough to protect him.”
Des was rushed to hospital where surgeons performed a craniotomy – removing half of his skull – to allow his brain to swell.
Since regaining consciousness, he can only move his eyes so he communicates by blinking.
He has been treated at the National Rehabilitation Hospital since May and while Tara has been warned to expect slow progress, she’s very hopeful that he will gradually regain speech and movement.
She said: “Cognitively he’s fine, he understands everything that’s going on.
“When I ask a question he’ll whisper the answer. He knows what he wants to say, but he has indicated that it’s just too difficult.
“With a brain injury nobody really knows, it’s incredibly slow.
“They’ve said he probably won’t get back to where he was and it won’t happen quickly, because a month of recovery with a brain injury is like a day with another injury.”
The Covid-19 restrictions have made the horrific situation even worse as Des hasn’t been allowed to have visitors for much of his time in hospital.
Tara explained: “When he was in St Vincent’s I was one of the very few people who were let in on compassionate grounds, which will tell you how bad it was.
“The Covid thing has put another layer on top of an incredibly difficult situation, and anybody who has someone in hospital will know how tough it is.
“I understand why the restrictions are there, but on a personal level it’s not the best thing for Des.
“The kids didn’t see Des until the 8th of July, a full six months to the date of his accident.
“It was very tough on him and it was hugely emotional when he saw them.
“The smile on his face that day, it held for 20 minutes, I haven’t seen him smile like that before or since.”
Under Level 3 restrictions, Des has had no visitors for three weeks, and it has made Tara all the more determined that he should be brought home rather than sent to another facility when he is discharged.
However, they’re now in a race against time, as it’s estimated it will cost €400,000 to cover the cost of nursing care, carers, physio, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and osteopathy for two years.
This is why Tara has set up a GoFundMe campaign, and she has been overjoyed at the response already with €164,000 pledged by generous donors.
She explained: “It’s been a really hard thing to do, but it’s the only way I can give him the best chance.
“24-hour nursing care is hugely expensive, so I’ve had to put it out there and hope that people can help.