Swim event for young Irishman in coma after J1 incident

Bilingual swim event to raise funds for former Trinity student

Around 50 young swimmers will take part in ‘Swim for Pádraig’ this weekend, a special fundraising event for Pádraig Schäler who was seriously injured in a road collision last June and has been in a coma since.

Around 50 young swimmers will take part in ‘Swim for Pádraig’ this weekend, a special fundraising event for Pádraig Schäler who was seriously injured in a road collision last June and has been in a coma since.

Mon, Apr 7, 2014, 16:52

Around 50 young swimmers will take part in ‘Swim for Pádraig’ this weekend, a special fundraising event for Pádraig Schäler who was seriously injured in a crash in the United States last June and has been in a coma since.

Participants in the event will travel around the country over 38 hours from 12th-13th April, swimming in the waters off every county in Ireland with a coast.

Mr Schäler (23) was hit by a van last summer in Cape Cod, Massachusetts while he was cycling to work. He had just completed his undergraduate studies at Trinity College Dublin and was spending the summer in the United States on a J1 visa.

He was thrown off his bike and hit his head on the windscreen of the van. He was rushed to hospital where doctors removed part of his skull to release pressure on his brain. After two weeks of intensive care, he was transferred back to Ireland and admitted to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin where he spent three and a half months in a high-dependency ward.

Shortly after arriving back in Ireland, Pádraig’s parents were told their son would have to wait nine months for a bed in the National Rehabilitation Hospital. Following advice from German and British consultants, they decided to transfer Pádraig to a German hospital in November 2013. Although they managed to insure him for treatment in Germany as a German citizen moving back to the country, they had to pay for the air ambulance which cost €12,000.

Reinhard Schäler has kept a daily blog of his son’s process in Germany and reported on Sunday that Pádraig had opened both his eyes. “He decided that he wanted to move,” he wrote. “Maybe he was just fed up lying in bed all day long, maybe he just wanted to turn. In any case, his whole body moved, both legs, his upper body, both arms, and he lifted up his head...”

Pádraig’s father says his son is now receiving excellent care. “Germany has a very well established system for dealing with patients and a really well structured programme,” he told The Irish Times. “They say young people of his age and his condition can make incredible progress. They’re so positive that it keeps us going too.”

Reinhard Schäler and Pádraig’s mother, Patricia O’Byrne, are determined to highlight the shortcomings of insurance policies sold to students planning on working abroad, the inadequate protection of cyclists in the US, and the lack of appropriate care and therapy for patients with brain injuries in Ireland.

Pádraig’s parents have said the J1 programme refused to cover their son’s healthcare as he wasn’t wearing a bicycle helmet. However, after some persuasion they say the insurance provider agreed to cover his return trip to Ireland.

Pádraig was covered by Blue Insurances while in the US on the Go4Less J1 programme. Ciarán Mulligan, Managing Director of Blue Insurances says the company was not responsbile for Mr Schäler’s health costs as they were less than €100,000, adding that Laya Insurance was obligated to cover the bills.

According to Mr Mulligan, the organisation has changed the wording of its health policy so that those cycling without a helmet are now covered for damages and injury.

Both Go4Less and Laya Insurance failed to comment on the details of Pádraig’s insurance coverage.

Aodhán Ó Deá, who has known Pádraig since they met as teenagers in Irish College and who is one of the organisers of the swimming event, hopes to raise enough money to ease the enormous financial burden that has been placed on the Schäler family. “Pádraig is an excellent swimmer and his friends decided that a challenge swim was the perfect way to honour him,” he said.

“He’s very involved in the Irish language and that’s why this is a bilingual event. He was always a kind giving soul so we decided to organise this for him.”

For more information on the event and to donate, go to http://bit.ly/donatepadraig

Caring for Pádraig website - http://caringforpadraig.org/