ONCE upon a time, not so very long ago, Ryan Murphy was a healthy, happy-go-lucky 27-year-old who loved walking his dog Dee in the fields near his home and following his favourite sport, rugby.
Then a terrifying ordeal last October, when he suffered a life-changing traumatic head injury, had serious implications for his future.
“Ryan was always a very fit, active man,” says Ryan’s sister, Laura.
“He loved working on his boat and going for walks and he was out walking on October 27 last year when he collapsed and hit his head.
"We’re still not exactly sure how that happened. It was a huge shock.”
The Murphy family, from Midleton, have now begun a fundraiser to bring Ryan out of hospital and to a new home, where he has the necessary facilities that he requires to be safe and comfortable.
Ryan is a gentle giant.
“He needs to have suitable accommodation for his height,” says Laura.
“Ryan is six feet two. He is really tall and at the moment he can’t support his head to hold it up straight, so he’ll need a support in his wheelchair that also has to fit into an accessible car.”
Ryan is strong too.
“When he bought his boat last year he wanted to do it up,” says Laura.
“He got a new engine for it and it weighed a ton. He was able to carry the engine into the shed himself.
“Ryan is a fine fellow; big and strong. He carries himself well and he has great posture.
“He is the strongest person we know. Ryan is known for his strength and for his kind heart.”
Bringing somebody home from hospital and from rehabilitation to continue a journey back to full health is a big undertaking and a big commitment.
“We are a very close family,” says Laura. “There are five of us, Ryan is the second youngest and we all help each other out.
“Some of the things that we found out Ryan needs when he comes home from the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire, we hadn’t even thought of.
“For instance, he’ll need a special mattress that circulates air so that he won’t suffer bed sores; he’ll need wider corridors in the hall to manoeuvre the wheelchair around the house. The bedroom must measure at least 12 feet by 12 feet to accommodate him and the medical equipment he requires. And a wet room is essential.
“Lighting throughout the house that comes on automatically in case of an emergency will also have to be installed.”
Going forward, Ryan will have profound needs.
“He’ll need to have around the clock care,” says Laura.
“He’ll require three carers to take care of him every day to help with tasks like feeding.
“Ryan is entitled to one carer, so we’ll employ the others privately ourselves.”
The Murphy family are prepared to move mountains to help Ryan have the best quality of life possible. They have had the conversation and are prepared to help him come home and live his best life in every possible way.
“We have to move from our house in Fr Murphy Place where Ryan and I lived with our mother, because it’s not suitable for Ryan’s needs when he comes home,” Laura explains.
“Our living room is really small and there is no scope for an extension. Our dad’s house isn’t large enough either. Mam has contacted the relevant authorities in the hope that we will be able to get a more suitable house for him.”
And the family want Ryan home so they can be a complete family again.
“Ryan is only 28. Going into a care home is not an option we’d consider for him. We’re not going to let that happen.”
Nobody had time to stop and consider anything when Ryan’s parents, Stella and Noel, got the shocking news that their son had collapsed and was being rushed to hospital after suffering a traumatic head injury.
“We think he fell and hit his head off a rock,” says Laura. “Our parents were alerted about Ryan’s accident when they got a phone call.”
It was a call nobody wants to take.
“They were told to expect the worst,” says Laura.
“The doctors said there was no hope. Ryan was put into a medically induced coma in CUH and then he underwent neuro-surgery to relieve swelling on the brain.
“Ryan’s neurosurgeon told us that the situation was worse than expected after the initial surgery to relieve pressure on his skull,” says Laura.
“He wasn’t expected to live.”
Ryan suffered a stroke after the first operation, decompressive craniectomy, surgery which is risky.
“But after being in a coma for three weeks, he miraculously regained consciousness in November.”
His nearest and dearest were desperately anxious to see him and to see for themselves that Ryan was rallying.
“He was in ICU and during lockdown and due to the restrictions we could only communicate with Ryan via Skype,” says Laura.
“Mum and Dad struggled with that. Mum wanted to see Ryan in person for herself to reassure herself that he was beginning to recover. We did get to visit him a handful of times.”
The family, keeping a dedicated vigilant eye on Ryan, were rewarded.
“We saw his eye twitch, and we wondered; did we imagine it? But then the following day; his eye twitched again. It was a sign of hope that he was coming around, even though the situation wasn’t great.”
He was in good hands.
“The nurses were amazing,” says Laura. “And we had video calls with Ryan every day.”
He wasn’t out of the woods by any means.
“Nobody knew if Ryan was going to survive,” says Laura. “He had been on a ventilator.
“Then he was moved from ICU to the neurosurgery GA ward around the start of March. Mum and Dad were able to visit him there after a about a month.
“I think that they got a shock seeing all the tubes that were attached to him. Dad is a former paramedic and he thought he’d seen it all,” says Laura.
“We were all hoping and praying that Ryan would survive. He was only 27 and his future seemed bleak.”
But Ryan, known for his strength and his kindness, has the heart of a lion and even Covid didn’t consume his will of iron to battle on.
“After a second surgery, Ryan got an infection which set him back, and then he contracted Covid,” says Laura.
“He had to deal with depression and muscle spasticity in his limbs. When Ryan was moved into a Covid ward, it frightened the life out of us. Mum and dad were lucky to get to see him on Christmas Day.”
They were lucky to hear him speak.
“His speech was slurred; but he said ‘Mam’.”
Being separated and isolated from their brother was frightening for the family.
“It was like being in limbo,” says Laura. “The hospital staff in CUH and in the ICU and GA wards were phenomenal. And the NRH saved his life and gave him his life.”
Ryan was able to respond when he saw his loved ones.
“When our sister Sabrina was able to see him, Ryan was overcome when she walked in,” says Laura. “He was very emotional and the tears fell.”
The tears turned to joy as Ryan seemed to turn a corner.
“At the National Rehabilitation Hospital, Ryan is working at moving his arms and his speech has come on.”
Small steps lead to bigger steps.
“Ryan may never walk. He will probably need the use of a wheelchair indefinitely,” says Laura.
“But the work that they are doing with him at the hospital is outstanding.”
The support from people who know the gentle giant, and of those who never met Ryan, is outstanding. The fund has already surpassed €50,000.
“People have been so generous in helping us fund-raise to bring Ryan home,” says Laura.
Everyone is in it together, willing him back to health and back home.
“We realise that everyone is under financial pressure and stress during the pandemic, but they are still rallying to help him.”
That isn’t surprising.
“Ryan is a great man. He is a lovely big brother,” says Laura. “He is very protective of us, and he would do the same for us.”
Along with the Murphys and all the people rooting for Ryan’s return to his home town, there is somebody else eager to welcome her master home.
“Dee, Ryan’s dog, or Deirdre as we call her, is missing Ryan every day,” says Laura.
“She has a run out the back and the day of Ryan’s accident, she ate through the wall. Deirdre sensed something was wrong. She never behaves like that.”
She has a sixth sense.
“My brother Jason sounds a bit like Ryan,” says Laura.
“And if Jason is talking in another room, Deirdre thinks it’s Ryan that is there!”
The Murphys, showing supreme effort and willpower, are willing Ryan back to recovery and back into the family fold.
“We just want him home.”
To donate see gofundme: ryan murphy’s road to recovery.