DSS Champion Pádraig Schaler
08 Sep, 2023
Pádraig Schaler had just graduated from Trinity College Dublin when he was struck by a passing vehicle while on a J1 in Cape Cod in 2013. The huge changes wrought by this devastating incident resulted in Pádraig experiencing severe brain injury and communicating through the use of a beeper, and in the opinion of his family, not enough people taking real note of what, precisely, he was communicating: his thoughts, his opinions, his wants.
Pádraig's father, Reinhard, is originally from Dortmund in Germany and following the incident in the US they felt “discouraged” by the Irish health system, and so instead brought their son to Germany for rehab.
"He was the person who insisted in our family that I should speak German,” Reinhard says. Pádraig is multi-lingual but his new means of communication is just one of the discoveries of the past decade - one in which the family interacted with both the German and Irish legal systems as they vied to create the best pathway for Pádraig.
Since then, the worries have eased. The family established the An Saol organisation to assist those with severe acquired brain injuries to be able to advocate for themselves. And Reinhard believes the Decision Support Service and the associated legislation will help those affected and their families to exert more direct control over future care.
"The new Act assumes that you have decision-making capacity,” Reinhard says. He recalls a previous difficulty with a bank which would not provide them with a financial statement for Pádraig’s account.
Reinhard knows that Pádraig experiences “a lot” of pride and satisfaction in exerting control over his own affairs. He recalls a recent episode when Pádraig declined an offer to go out for a walk - it turns out his decision was based on the fact that he knew his Dad had a bad back. “That was empathy,” Reinhard says.
A decade on from the incident that changed his life, new horizons are opening up in Pádraig’s life. Now 33, he recently achieved a life ambition - visiting Alaska. Pádraig had always wanted to follow in the footsteps of Chris McCandless, the author of the outdoor classic Into The Wild. With a little planning, it happened.
“We had asked him do you still want to do it and he said yeah, and then eventually we went,” Reinhard says. They flew to Seattle, then took a cruise. “He loved it.”
It speaks to Pádraig’s sense of adventure and a desire to still take a risk. “I want at some stage to go scuba diving with sharks,” Reinhard says. "People go up Mount Everest. But as soon as you have a disability you can’t take any risks any more. I've said to people that the safest place where there are no risks is the box where you are six foot under.”
It’s fair to say Pádraig would beep in agreement.
o learn a little bit more about Pádraig, please watch a short video at this link.