Pádraig Schaler was critically injured while on a J1 visa in Cape Cod in Massachusetts in June last year. He was cycling to work when he was hit by a van, and he has been in a coma ever since.
He had just completed a degree in Irish and History in Trinity College Dublin. After two weeks in intensive care in the US, his parents brought him home to Ireland. They eventually decided to move him to Germany, where he is now receiving the treatment he needs and is making slow but steady progress.
I am one of the lucky people to call Pádraig a friend. I spent hours with him and the gang in Scéim Chónaithe na Gaeilge on the TCD campus, and many a long night in Club Chonradh na Gaeilge.
Pádraig has a deep love for his culture, especially the Irish language, and was making films and radio programmes. It’s hard to believe that in the blink of an eye everything can change.
After Pádraig’s accident, the ripples of disbelief and shock were felt by his friends and family around the world. His condition was critical for a few months and it wasn’t until February that these started becoming ripples of hope.
He is now getting the best of care in the specialised Neuro Rehab facility the Schön Klinik in Hamburg. His father Reinhard sends us daily reports of Pádraig’s progress through an online blog www.hospi-tales.com.
In one of his most beautiful posts, Reinhard tells the story of a dream he had about building a boat with Pádraig in the back garden, and whether it would sink or swim. It swam. It was a story about the importance of hope and belief, which inspired me to write a bilingual song, Dreamboat.
I first performed it with my band The Bonny Men at a fundraising concert for Pádraig in February, but decided it would be special to ask Pádraig's friends to record it, as a group. And so the invitation was put out to anyone who wanted to be a part of it.
Over the summer we gathered in the Conradh for a few rehearsals. There was a great buzz, working out parts for the different instruments, harmonies, chords, and figuring out vocals. The Dreamboat was being built.
The night before the recording we put on a gig in Conradh na Gaeilge to pay for the recording. It was a great night of music where many of Pádraig’s friends played and sang. The abundance of talent within the group was obvious and I thought it would be a terrible waste not to (excuse the pun) push the boat out a bit further, and record a whole album.
Over the following months, the musicians who performed on the night of the gig recorded the rest of the tracks. There were pieces of traditional music, some songs and a couple of poems written for Pádraig. The end result was a 10 track album, Amhrán do Phádraig.
It brought his circle of friends back together. There were people I hadn’t seen in years. Nine out of ten of the people singing on Dreamboat had never set foot in a recording studio so that in itself was special. Everybody felt they were doing something important for Pádraig.
This is just one of many fundraising events that have been organised for him, including concerts, table quizzes and poker nights. Fifty of his friends swam in every county with a coastline in Ireland over two days in April, raising €38,000. As Pádraig’s family have incurred huge medical costs (and there will be more in the future), these fundraisers are extremely important.
A friend observed recently, “look at everything Pádraig is achieving, and him lying in bed in Hamburg”. It was true. Pádraig led a very proactive life before his accident but since his then he has mobilised a whole army of people doing things they might never have thought possible.
Amhrán do Phádraig will be launched in The Grand Social in Dublin tonight, with all proceeds will go to the Caring for Pádraig fund. See amhrandophadraig.com