'We could end up back to where we were': Cork mum fearful over potential impacts of delays in accessing equipment 

The Cork mother said any major delays in replacing vital pieces of equipment for her son could see Liam return to hospital.
'We could end up back to where we were': Cork mum fearful over potential impacts of delays in accessing equipment 

Liam Lynch from Mallow, Co Cork with his parents David and Grainne and sister Maeve and their dog Pixie. Liam's mother said she is concerned about delays in sourcing a new cushion and spinal brace for her son. Picture Dan Linehan

In February 2019, Mallow teenager Liam Lynch lay in a hospital bed unsure whether or not he would require surgery on painful stage four pressure sores. 

Now, more than two and a half years later, Liam is in danger of facing a similar predicament once again as he faces delays in accessing vital equipment.

Back in 2019, Liam was 15 years old, living an active life playing wheelchair sports and studying for his Junior Certificate.

However, in early 2019 he outgrew his powerchair, which he has needed since he was diagnosed with a tumor in his spine and scoliosis at the age of seven, and despite his mother raising the issue six months prior to that, he was left without a replacement.

At the time, the HSE said funding restrictions meant it could not process all applications for powerchairs immediately.

The delays left Liam suffering with stage four pressure sores, which can often reach the bone, and in possible need of skin graft surgery.

Liam came out of the ordeal without needing surgery and managed to complete his Junior Cert with the help of his family and school. 

But he was left with pressure sores that need daily dressing.

Now, two years after his harrowing hospital ordeal, the 18-year-old is studying for his Leaving Cert. 

He has a new powerchair, however, he recently outgrew his cushion and spinal brace. 

Concerns over potential impacts of delays in accessing equipment 

Speaking to The Echo in recent days, his mother Grainne warned any major delays in replacing these vital pieces of equipment could see Liam return to hospital.

“We could end up back to where we were two years ago if something isn’t done now,” she said.

“That pressure sore hasn’t even healed yet, we’re still dressing that daily.

“The consequences of waiting too long for a new cushion will be ending up back there.

“We do not want to go back to that,” she added.

“Liam is in a bit of pain and he’s very worried because he knows what happened the last time he outgrew his cushion and he doesn’t want the same thing to happen again.” 

Slow progress 

Grainne flagged the need for a new cushion and spinal brace with the HSE in August this year.

She said that while reassurances have been made, there seems to have been little or no progress.

“We’re in the middle of trying to get that sorted and it’s nearly impossible,” she said.

“There’s so many agencies involved.

“We flagged the cushion in August and we’re in October now but we’re still waiting on people to send quotes and to ask the HSE for funding,” she added.

“There’s a whole circle there and if one cog is slow, it all gets backlogged and it leads to more and more waiting.

“He also wears a spinal brace for scoliosis but he has outgrown that and we’re now waiting to get a fitting for that as well.

“That’s imminent as well apparently but we just don’t know.” 

Grainne said the spinal brace issue was raised by the Lynch family in August but once again, there have been delays in accessing a fitting appointment for a new brace for Liam.

 Liam Lynch from Mallow and his mother Grainne, pictured at Cork University Hospital in 2019. Picture: David Keane.
Liam Lynch from Mallow and his mother Grainne, pictured at Cork University Hospital in 2019. Picture: David Keane.

She said the lack of a suitable spinal brace is already impacting Liam.

“At the moment, he’s starting to get pains in his shoulders and back.

“He’s compromised enough as it is with the scoliosis so it’s hard for him to sit in the chair and feel comfortable.

“Everyone knows, when you’ve got a bit of a pain, it niggles away at you and your form isn’t good, and you can’t focus or concentrate,” she added.

“It’s needless pain and it’s so frustrating.” 

As well as a new cushion and spinal brace, Liam is also awaiting a manual wheelchair to use if his powerchair breaks down, and a suitable shower chair.

He has been waiting for five years for these vital pieces of equipment, Grainne explained.

“We’re also waiting five years for a shower chair, and we’re waiting as long for a manual chair,” she said.

“If Liam’s powerchair broke down at all, he’d have nothing else to help him get around. He’d be confined to the bed basically.

The delays in obtaining a showerchair from the HSE meant the Lynch family had to rely on a donation from a bereaved family.

“There was a family next door to us in the rooms in CUH when Liam was in hospital and their child unfortunately passed away,” Grainne explained.

“They gifted us their shower chair.

“That’s what people are having to rely on.

“Liam is now 18 and we’ve been having to lift him in and out of the shower,” she added.

“At 18, he should be able to have his own dependence and be supported in that but that’s not happening.”

Need for more supports 

Grainne said that organisations, who work alongside the HSE to source equipment like wheelchairs and spinal braces and provide support to people with disabilities, are overwhelmed and need more help from the HSE.

She also called for a HSE database to flag when people’s equipment is in need of review, to take the burden off families.

“There should be a database there telling the HSE every six months that this child needs to be reviewed for a new cushion, chair or whatever,” said Grainne.

“It shouldn’t be up to the families to need to flag it.

“It would be something if it was just one child, but it’s hundreds that are being let down.

“It’s not fair on them or their families,” she added.

“Every year is the same thing and it’s so frustrating.” 

HSE response 

A spokesperson for the HSE said:

"In order to protect the privacy of everyone using our services, we cannot comment on the details of someone’s care."

"However, a senior member of our team will engage with Liam’s family next (week starting October 24th) week around any issues that they currently need assistance with."

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