‘The only muscle I could move was my index finger’

Shane Gannon suffered catastrophic injuries in a workplace accident in December 2013

Shane Gannon pictured outside his home in Kilbeggan, Co Westmeath. Photograph: Tom O’Hanlon

Shane Gannon from Kilbeggan, Co Westmeath, has to be careful when he picks up a plate because he can’t differentiate if it’s hot or cold since suffering catastrophic injuries in a workplace accident in December 2013.

The now 44-year-old was working at his family business which recycles glass. He went to move an A-frame containing 12 sheets of glass measuring 12ft by 6ft when a chain broke and it came careering down on top of him.

“They hit me in the chin, which broke,” he says. “They also broke my neck. I was left lying on my back in the blink of an eye. I can remember the fire brigade, and then an ambulance came.”

He was taken to the Mater hospital in Dublin for surgery.

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“I had broken three vertebrae. Everything from below my chin should have been affected and not working right, but I can walk. I’ve only the use of my right hand and not full use. I can’t lift it over my shoulder.

‘Very weak’

“Everything else wouldn’t be great. My left leg would be very weak. My right leg would be probably 70-80 per cent. I don’t look too bad but the underlying stuff is the problem. I can’t differentiate between hot and cold so I have to be careful with plates and that.

“I can only feel the temperature on say my chin or my cheek, or my head. So I’d have to go down with the corner of my cheek for radiators and stuff like that. It’s the only way I can tell.

“Lucky enough, my bladder is 90 per cent. My bowels aren’t working at all so I have to use suppositories for that.”

Gannon says it has been "non-stop rehabilitation" for the past five years, including a stint at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dún Laoghaire. "The only muscle I could move was my index finger on my right hand," he says.

“I was lying in a bed there not even able to scratch myself. You’re naked. You can’t do a thing. You’re being washed and showered and the whole lot. It was a hard slog for 5½ months to get to be able to walk out of there with a walking stick.”

Despite the injuries he suffered, Gannon says he has “never had one bad day” with his mental health. However, the rehabilitation continues with the use of an exoskeleton to work on his movement. “It’s like a robotic suit,” he says. “I use that to perfect my stepping. It gives you the independence of walking proper.

“I also do yoga twice a week; acupuncture once a week; and reflexology once a week. It’s a busy week.”