‘It has been a great step forward’: Man who lost arm in crash has prosthetic thanks to cross-border initiative

62-year-old Michael MacAogáin had his arm amputated following incident in June 2008

Austrian surgeon Prof Oskar Aszmann, whose work on bionic reconstruction led to Michael MacAogáin travelling to get an 'intelligent prosthesis'. Photograph: Dieter Nagl/AFP via Getty Images

“I went to the guys in the credit union and said I wanted to borrow 20 grand to get my arm amputated,” recalls 62-year-old Michael MacAogáin, who lost the use of his left arm in a motorcycle crash in June 2008. “He looked at me like I was some sort of lunatic.”

Years later, hampered in his work at the electrical service company he owned and still suffering from considerable “phantom” pain, he heard a doctor from Vienna, Prof Oskar Aszmann, interviewed on the BBC about the work he was doing in bionic reconstruction and thought he saw some hope of a way forward.

The process would involve trips to Austria for an initial consultation, followed by an amputation and then the fitting of an “intelligent prosthesis”.

Without the EU’s cross-border healthcare scheme, getting the treatment would have been impossible, he says.


The €20,000 was only stage one, he remembers telling the manager in Wexford Credit Union. “Within 30 days, I told him, the HSE would reimburse the money and then I’d need to borrow €100,000 but they would reimburse that too within a few weeks.”

His house was on the line for the second loan but the refunds all came through on schedule and he was able to proceed with operations, he told a conference on the EU cross-border access-to-healthcare scheme in Dún Laoghaire on Monday.

Seven years on, the prosthetic gives improved use and mobility and has significantly reduced the day-to-day pain he experiences.

“I don’t have the dexterity I had before the crash but it has been a great step forward.”

With a much improved quality of life, he has exited the business he owned, gone back to college, obtained a degree in Applied Social Science and now works with Focus Ireland, “working to keep people with mental health issues in their homes”.

“All of this,” he says, “is due to the cross-border directive.”

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times