Cyclist paralysed by truck pleads with drivers to show patience

Victim says spinal cord injury shortens his life expectancy by up to 30 years

Vincent O’Driscoll described catastrophic and life-changing injuries after he was hit by the truck. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Vincent O’Driscoll described catastrophic and life-changing injuries after he was hit by the truck. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Fri, Jul 4, 2014, 15:36

A 31-year-old cyclist left paralysed after a truck carrying 42 tonnes of timber rolled over him has spoken of the traumatic impact of the accident as he urged drivers to show greater patience on the roads.

Vincent O’Driscoll told how he sometimes contemplates suicide after sustaining horrific injuries in the accident when he was run over by haulier Tim Walsh in Co Cork.

Walsh from Moneen, Glanworth, Co Cork had pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing serious injury to Mr O’Driscoll on the main Cork-Macroom road on August 7th 2013.

Garda Patrick O’Leary told Cork Circuit Criminal Court how Mr O’Driscoll was cycling on the N22 two miles east of Macroom when Walsh knocked him off his bike as he overtook him on a hill.

Walsh was driving a truck and trailer carrying 42 tonnes of lumber and witnesses said that the rear wheels of the trailer rolled over Mr O’Driscoll after he was knocked off his bike.

Mr O’Driscoll was rushed to Cork University Hospital and initially, he was not expected to survive the crash but he did and he was now in court and had prepared a victim impact statement.

Garda O’Leary then read from Mr O’Driscoll’s victim impact statement as Mr O’Driscoll listened from his wheelchair, flanked by relatives and friends.

Mr O’Driscoll catalogued the life-threatening injuries that he suffered including a severed spinal cord, fractured pelvis, two broken hips, two broken legs and two broken ankles.

He also suffered liver failure, kidney failure, bowel damage and bladder damage as well as a minor head injury and a minor shoulder injury in the accident, the court heard.

He spent a month in an induced coma in the intensive care unit at Adelaide and Meath Hospital in Tallaght and then three months more in ICU there after regaining consciousness.

He was transferred to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire in February 2014 but his rehabilitation was hampered when a skin graft broke open.

“I still struggle with fairly severe pain especially in my feet. I can’t sit out of the bed that long - I might last two to three hours in the wheelchair before I have to lie down on the bed.”

Mr O’Driscoll said that he is on very strong painkillers but they don’t seem to having any positive effect on him anymore and when the pain gets bad he has to lie down.

He told how he has wear a colostomy bag due to the damage to his bowel and a catheter due to damage to his bladder and he doesn’t know if he’s going to have to wear those for life.

“To be honest, the psychological side of it is nearly as bad as the physical side of it, if not worse - I used to get up in the morning and I used to be a happy person,” he said.

“I had to wake up to a new body which I wasn’t familiar with - it makes you feel a different person, it’s going to take me a long time to get over, if I ever will.

“It makes me contemplate suicide. I’ve talked to my psychologist and she reckons that I’m not depressed but that I’m grieving - grieving for the body I had and the life I had.”

Mr O’Driscoll said that every plan he ever had has changed including one to have children with his fiancee, Karen but he wasn’t even sure if that would ever be possible now.

“Medically, the type of spinal cord injury I have shortens your life by 15 to 30 years,” said Mr O’Driscoll, adding that he didn’t know if he would ever be able to work in any capacity again.

“I am a forgiving person and I understand that accidents do happen but accidents like mine could easily be avoided with a bit of patiencee on the part of drivers,” he said.

“I think my accident specifically could have been avoided - I think the truck driver was reckless in relation to my safety - he didn’t give me a chance.

“He showed no understanding of road safety, for cyclists in particular - there isn’t much room for manoeuvre at the spot where he tried to overtake me, yet he still tried to overtake.

“His split second decision to overtake me on that stretch of road has had a devastating effect on every aspect of my life,” said Mr O’Driscoll who was a keen participant in triathlons.

“No matter what the outcome of the sentencing, I’ll be disappointed because the maxium I think he can get is 10 years in prison- that’s a short sentence compared to what he gave me.”

Garda O’Leary told the court that Walsh’s truck had undergone a Department of Environment inspection some two months prior to the accident and some 70 defects had been identified.

These included defects in the braking system, the lighting system and mirrors including a cracked near side mirror but Walsh who owned the truck did nothing to remedy them, he said.

Judge Sean Ó Donnabháin agreed to a defence application for an adjournment to allow a psychiatric report be presented on Walsh and he remanded him on bail to July 30th.