Brain injury rehab: ‘No one gave Amanda a chance’

Woman’s partner is ‘disgusted’ at lack of ‘serious therapy’ after traumatic accident

 Amanda Denton (44) with her partner Tommy Lee. “She just kept doing a bit more.” Photograph: Eric Luke

Amanda Denton (44) with her partner Tommy Lee. “She just kept doing a bit more.” Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Amanda Denton (44), who suffered a severe, traumatic brain injury at her home in Wexford in May 2014, has “never had a proper shot at rehabilitation”, says her partner.

Tommy Lee, who has cared for her since a fall on the stairs resulted in acute bleeding on her brain, leaving her in a coma for months, says he was advised she would not live and that if she did, she would “be like a vegetable”. This attitude has prevailed since her accident, he says, and “no one has given her a real chance”.

Amanda is now in a nursing home and dependent for all personal needs. She cannot speak, cannot hold her head upright and cannot eat solid foods. She can, however, communicate, pointing to items and people when asked and smiling and squeezing people’s hands when greeting them.

“It is like she’s locked in, but she can break out,” says Tommy. “She is totally here with us. And this is a woman we were told we shouldn’t hold any hope for.”

He says the first failing was on the night of her accident, when she was being taken by ambulance to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, the national centre for the treatment of head injuries.

“The paramedics were calling ahead but they couldn’t get an answer. They turned back and brought her to Wexford General Hospital.”

The following day she was transferred to Beaumont, where she had emergency brain surgery, including removal of some of her skull.

“After surgery they told us there was little hope for her, that she had had a massive bleed on her brain for over 14 hours. We were keeping a vigil by her bedside in intensive care for a couple of weeks.

Medical setbacks

“Then they said she wasn’t a Beaumont patient and she was moving back to Wexford. If they had answered the phone the night of her accident she would have been their patient. It felt like they didn’t want to give hope, that they were washing their hands of her.”

A spokeswoman for the hospital said: “Beaumont Hospital cannot comment on individual patient cases due to patient confidentiality.” However, it advised anyone unhappy with care to contact the hospital’s patient representative office.

In Wexford hospital, says Tommy, he was encouraged to seek a Fair Deal-funded nursing home bed. But around December 2014, “she began to wake up more”.

He encouraged her to engage and respond. “She just kept doing a bit more.”

He applied for a bed in the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dún Laoghaire and five months later she was transferred there.

Tommy says she was to get therapy for disorder of consciousness at the NRH, but a series of medical setbacks, including aspiration pneumonia and blocked feeding tubes, saw her transferred to an acute hospital on numerous occasions, interrupting starts to her rehabilitation. She lost weight and deteriorated, he says.

“They seemed to give up on doing any serious therapy with her by the end.”

Her NRH time-sheets from the week of July 18th-July 22nd this year show 90 minutes of occupational therapy and 30 minutes each of physiotherapy, music therapy and speech and language therapy, a total of three hours.

“She went to the NRH for rehabilitation and she didn’t get it,” Tommy says. She was transferred on July 21st, against Tommy’s wishes, to a nursing home.

“I am disgusted at the way she has been treated,” he says. “Staff here, in the nursing home, are doing therapies with her, but they don’t have the resources and it’s not where she should be.”

‘Proper shot’

“Every time they tried to write her off she has fought back. No one gave her a chance and she has proved them all wrong. I just want her to have a proper shot at rehabilitation and she hasn’t been given it.”

In a statement the NRH said it could not comment on an individual’s case.

“The hospital pays particular attention to its responsibility to provide optimal rehabilitation by tailoring rehabilitation to meet the needs of each individual patient . . . At times compromise may be needed on . . . the maximum quantum of therapy a person can tolerate depending on their cognitive and physical ability.

“At the same time the NRH faces a considerable challenge in trying to provide access to as many people as possible from the considerable waiting list.”