By Joe Leogue
When a Midleton man was knocked down he suffered horrific head injuries. The driver denied it was his fault and his insurers refused to help with rehabilitation costs, but CCTV footage told a different story. David O’Driscoll is now trying to piece his life back together.
A Cork mother has described her family’s ‘dreadful’ year after her son suffered severe head injuries when he was hit by a car whose driver initially denied he was to blame for the accident.
The driver’s insurers had refused to pay out any funds towards David O’Driscoll’s rehabilitation from the brain injuries he suffered that night.
The driver — a leading cancer surgeon — had denied being at fault for the accident.
However, CCTV footage from Ireland international footballer Glenn Whelan’s house showed the motorist was on the wrong side of the road at the time of the impact.
Mr O’Driscoll, 39, originally from Midleton, was walking to his car after finishing work at a bank in Wilmslow, south of Manchester, England on the night of February 2, 2017, when he was hit by a Mercedes-Benz driven by Professor Nigel Bundred.
The accident occurred as Mr O’Driscoll crossed a road junction just yards from the professor’s home, and while there were no witnesses to the accident, CCTV from the nearby home of Aston Villa midfielder Glenn Whelan showed Prof Bundred had cut the corner so badly that at no stage was his vehicle on the correct side of the road.
Mr O’Driscoll — who had become a father for the first time just four weeks before the incident — suffered a catastrophic brain injury and was in a coma following the accident.
He had to have part of his skull removed and a metal plate inserted, is still receiving treatment over a year later, and has not been able to return to work.
In court, Prof Bundred pleaded not guilty of driving without due care and attention, and had argued that he had not seen Mr O’Driscoll because street lights were not working and his view was obscured by the pillar on his car door.
However, despite this he was found guilty of the offence at a criminal trial at Tameside Magistrates Court last month. Prof Bundred was fined £2,000 and a victim surcharge of £170 as well as the prosecution costs.
The verdict has come as a relief to Mr O’Driscoll, his wife Kerri, and their families, as Prof Bundred’s motor insurers had refused to acknowledge any liability to the injured man.
The insurers subsequently refused to release interim funds in order to pay for a proper programme of private rehabilitation.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr O’Driscoll’s mother Catherine said it was a “dreadful, awful time” for her family.
She said the family’s upset was compounded by a wrongful allegation that her son was on his phone at the time of the accident, and by the fact that Mr O’Driscoll received no pay out from Prof Bundred’s insurers while the surgeon denied fault.
But given the guilty verdict, the family is hopeful funds for David’s rehabilitation will be made available.
“Only for Glenn Whelan, David would have been in big trouble, as there were no witnesses,” Mrs O’Driscoll said.
“We are very anxious to thank him, we were advised we could not approach him while the trial was ongoing, but now we would love to speak with him to give him our thanks, and we have every intention of doing so, that footage is what made all the difference,” she said.
Both David and Kerri’s families have shared the financial burden that followed the accident for the past year.
“Both families helped them out, that’s got them through the past year — the huge support from the families,” Mrs O’Driscoll said.
“David is still not allowed to drive, and he’s not sure when he can return to work. He has been told he may have worked his last day.
“He has needed five life-saving operations, and will need more procedures in the future. He was in a coma, lost four months of his memory, it has been a dreadful time for all the family.
“David has family in Australia, Canada, and Ireland, and everyone dropped everything to come to be with him,” she said.
Thankfully, while he has some way to go, Mrs O’Driscoll said her son has made progress — despite initial fears, he no longer needs use of a wheelchair.
“He is definitely on the mend, at one stage he was not expected to survive. We didn’t know what condition he would be in if he did survive, but he’s doing tremendously now considering where we were then, but it’s a long road.
“You could see in the CCTV footage that he landed on his head, legs in the air, “He had no spinal injury, it’s very positive compared to where he came from,” she said.
This improvement, she said, benefitted from the quick thinking of the ambulance service, and the care her son received from the NHS at Salford Royal Hospital.
Mrs O’Driscoll said she was going public with her son’s story to urge motorists to take care on the roads.
“Drivers have to be careful of pedestrians. David did everything right, he looked up and down before crossing and crossed well down from the corner. People have to be able to walk, and drivers have to be aware. What happened happened in a split second, and it changed many lives,” she said.
In a statement after the accident, David said his life had “changed forever”.
“I was just minding my own business, walking back to my car and looking forward to getting home to my wife and four-week-old little boy Ronan. I stepped into the road having checked that it was safe to do so, but the car came from behind and I didn’t even see it coming.
“I would urge all drivers to be extra vigilant when driving at night and to look out for people on the road.
“It’s due to the skill, professionalism and dedication of Mr JP Holland and his excellent team at Salford Royal that I am alive and able to be with my wife and son,” he said.
The following are extracts from three victim impact statements David O’Driscoll submitted to the court over the past year. They detail how he has attempted to cope with the challenges since he was knocked down
26 April, 2017
As a result of what has happened, I have become anxious about many things. Some of these may be expected, such as crossing the road.
This manifested itself when my therapists sent me to a shop as part of tests to see how I would cope carrying out everyday tasks with my brain injury. To get to this shop, I had to cross the road many times and as I did so, I found myself filled with fear.
This fear has repeated itself every time I have crossed the road since and I am now even reluctant to push the pram of my baby son, in case I should have to cross the road.
A further effect of what I have been through, is that I am very reluctant to have a shower.
This is due to the fact that to shower, means having to wash my hair, which in turn means having to touch my head. There is a hole in my head following the operations and I cannot describe how distressing it is to put my hand where my head should be, and there is no head. I’m not ashamed to say that many times this sensation has brought me to tears. It really is deeply upsetting and troubling.
A significant emotional effect this has had, is the effect on my family. When I was hit, my son was four weeks old. As a result of my hospital stay, I missed three of the first four months of my first child’s life. The changes in my son during this time were enormous, and I missed them happening.
Perhaps the most distressing part of this experience, is having an idea of what my wife was put through. I say “having an idea”, as I still struggle to comprehend what she endured. Kerri, whom I love dearly, had to watch me wheeled into operations after being told by the surgeons that I may not survive those operations.
She watched me receiving therapy while not knowing what kind of me she would get back or when. She had no way of knowing how much of my mind, my memory, my personality or my feelings would return, or even if I would relearn the ability to walk and feed myself.
I cannot imagine how painful it would be to have had to go through that, if the roles had been reversed.
Kerri’s life was made more difficult as she used to rely on me to drive her following her cesarean section. Knowing that I failed in my commitment to her and that she was having to get lifts every day to visit me, was a painful daily reminder that I could not perform my duties for my family.
A significant source of stress and tension caused by being put in hospital was my son’s christening. For a long time, it looked like the doctors would not be in a position to release me from hospital on the day for the christening or to attend any reception afterwards. This was naturally extremely distressing, especially as by my absence, I was already failing my family.
Fortunately, in the end, I was let out of hospital for a couple of hours to attend the christening. At this however, doctors were concerned about the number of people involved as I would have “too much stimulation”.
This meant that I had to ask a number of relatives to not go, even some that had travelled internationally already and this remains a source of embarrassment within the family for me. I was also unable to have even a glass of champagne to toast my son as I cannot have alcohol. I was also unable to raise a toast on my wedding anniversary.
There are many experiences which I had planned to give my family, but I have been forced to renege.
My extended family dropped everything when they heard what happened and that my survival was uncertain. This involved siblings walking out of their jobs and families to travel to my bedside from Ireland, China and Australia. Finding out the trouble everyone had gone to on my account, added further to my anxiety.
Following the operations, I have to wear a helmet and eye patch. This makes excursions outside unwelcome and something to avoid. I am an unwelcome target of attention, glances and laughs. While trying to not allow what has been done to me rule my life, I try to avoid public places as a result of this forced change to my appearance.
I continue to feel shame about the way I was following my early operations. I lost control of bodily functions and with them, lost much of my dignity. For weeks afterwards, I was not even allowed to go to the bathroom unassisted and I still feel shame and anger about having been forced to experience this.
I used to be a blood and blood platelet donor and regularly travelled to Ireland to donate platelets (due to my platelet count, I have never been able to donate platelets in the UK).
My record of donating is something I take a great deal of pride in as it will have saved and improved countless lives. I have 94 donations to my name and have received an award from the Irish Blood Transfusion Service for my record. I was due to receive a further award at a reception when I get to 100 donations.
This award, which I was very much looking forward to, will never happen now. I have been informed by the Irish Blood Transfusion Service that because of the nature of the operations performed on me, I am barred for life from making any more donations in Ireland.
The loss of the award for which I have literally spilledblood, is something I can get over. However, saving lives by making regular donations since I turned 18, is something I was enormously proud of and was something by which I defined myself. That my ability to continue donating has been robbed from me is something I am very upset about and it does leave a hole in my life.
The crash and subsequent operations caused me to suffer a very great deal of pain and discomfort. The pain manifests itself mainly in my head and back. I experience pain or uncomfortable sensations such as numbness or pins and needles in my head on a near constant basis. Even simple things like sneezing or laughing are quickly followed by pain in my head wounds.
Following the crash, I lost the ability to walk unassisted for about two months. I was largely bedbound for this period, but was allowed around the hospital on a wheelchair.
After coming out of my coma, it took a number of weeks for my ability to talk or swallow to return.
My short-term memory has been damaged by the crash and has partly not recovered. I have no or limited recollection of the weeks after I recovered from my coma. Many of the recollections I have, are false as I suffered hallucinations, again because of what was done to me.
What was done to me has had a major impact on my social activities. Put simply, social activities are largely not possible any longer. I cannot visit my circle of friends in Ireland as I can neither fly nor drive. I cannot frequent pubs as following advice from doctors, I cannot have alcohol and must avoid both crowds and loud music.
The Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis is an annual event in Ireland which I have attended with friends every year (bar one when it clashed with my wedding) for the last 18 years. It is a weekend which serves as an annual reunion for friends around the country. This year I have had to inform my friends that I will not be going, as doctors have forbidden flights and crowds.
For the same reasons, I have informed two friends that I cannot attend their 40th birthday celebrations.
Being run over has had an impact on my marriage. Just as she was coping with the demands of a newborn baby, my wife was forced to cope with the unbearable burden of a brain-damaged husband who may or may not survive and may or may not return in the form she knew.
My wife had to assume all responsibilities in the household, especially those normally undertaken by me, such as managing the family finances. She did this without any help from me, as I could neither talk to her nor understand her.
In time, all trace of her own life disappeared as all time was spent looking after our baby, looking after the household and looking after me at the hospital. This naturally caused a strain and added to my fatigue following months of treatment, caused tensions between us.
I have been unable to attend work since being hit and have been advised by my doctors and therapists that it is likely to be many months until I can return. Timescales of up to a year have been mentioned. As a result of this, I have not only been not performing the tasks for which I am responsible, I have also not been undertaking the regulatory training which is mandatory for my role in the bank.
What was done to me has therefore directly and adversely affected both my current job and my future career prospects.
13 September, 2017
I am currently waiting for my next operation and have a letter from the neurosurgeon warning of the risks of brain damage, epilepsy, loss of vision etc. To be waiting for this surgery is a considerable source of stress. I have survived so much, so many head and brain operations, come so close to death, and yet I know that with this surgery, I could lose my life and worse, my ability to be a father to my son. Every day, I am forced to contemplate this operation and it is a significant drain on my happiness.
As part of my treatment, I had a shunt inserted in my head. I have been informed that this shunt has a lifespan of approximately five years and at the end of its life, it will need to be removed.
I have further been informed that depending on my condition, when it is removed this shunt may need to be replaced and this process could repeat for life. Knowing that I am potentially facing a lifetime of head operations every few years is adding greatly to my distress.
I have been left with significant and persistent balance issues. I have experienced a number of falls to the extent that my wife is nervous about me holding my son. On one occasion, I fell into my son’s cot while he was in it. This made my son become very upset and cry. I am a very proud father and I cannot get over the shock of knowing that I have made my son cry.
I and others around me, have noticed that the brain injury I suffered has affected my behaviour. I am less understanding of others than I used to be and my bonding with my new son has not continued the way it was before the crash.
My wife even tells of times in hospital when I was disinterested in him. Aside from experiencing this, it is upsetting to hear but like the physical pain I experience every day, the damage to my personality is another thing I must overcome.
I have currently got a hole in the back of my skull, which apart from the pain and discomfort that it brings, is depriving me of experiences with my son. I am very guarded when playing with my son as a kick or hit from him in the hole, could be fatal.
Before my son was born, I bought a backpack for babies so I could carry him on my back. I have never been able to use this backpack because it would bring my skull within reach of my son’s arms. This is a further example of how the physical inflictions deprive me of valuable experiences with my family.
During my treatment, surgeons had to remove the right hand side of my skull. Though returned, this has left a large and visible dent in my head which is noticed by people I talk to and I can also feel it. These scars and changes to the shape of my head are permanent.
As a result of the injuries inflicted on me and the treatment of same, the DVLA have made my driving licence invalid in the UK. It is frustrating to know that because of someone else’s driving, I cannot drive. More than this, I have been putting enormous effort into my recovery and hoped to soon be at the stage when doctors will allow me to drive.
Now that my licence is invalid, these hopes have been robbed from me and I must continue to depend on others, even more than this, I must continue to not do many things for my family.
Because I cannot lawfully drive in the UK, my insurers have removed me from my car policy. I am now stranded as I cannot fly home to Cork, cannot drive to the ferry as I have no licence valid in the UK, and cannot drive from the ferry in Ireland as I have no insurance.
I am facing my son’s first Christmas and I cannot take him home, so am being robbed of so many experiences I wanted to give him and have with him.
I continue to not be allowed to work. I am putting great effort into my recovery with doctors, physiotherapists, etc in order to be able to return to normal life, including work. However, whenever I am cleared to return to work, I now cannot drive there.
I have been receiving a number of medical reports about my time in hospital. It has been extremely distressing to read about how close I came to death, about my loss of brain substance and about my brain injury.
The most recent report I’ve received has also stated that due to the parts of my brain that have been injured, cognitive function, affect and mood are likely to be affected. This is confirmed by my wife who has noticed things like mood swings.
It also adds to my concerns for the future such as returning to work.
I have also now heard the emergency call made after the crash and I am greatly upset after hearing my groans and about my condition as I lay on the road. My nightmares have increased since hearing this call.
I am also dealing with anger having heard on the call that the defendant refused a request from the operator to help stop the bleeding from my head.
My wife has informed me that she has noticed an increase in agitation in my nightmares since listening to the call.
I think that the dent on the side of my head has increased or has become more noticeable. It is certainly something I can feel on a near permanent basis. I have now had a discussion with the surgeon about further surgery to move the skull to the position it should be in, which will rectify my appearance.
I have been informed by the surgeon that this would be major surgery and carry high risks, which he has discussed with me. I now have to make the choice of either living with a permanent and unwelcome change to my appearance, which is noticed by others, or undergoing further surgery with risks to my life and quality of life.
Every cough, sneeze or blow of my nose, is immediately followed by pain in my head wounds. I am currently recovering from a cold, the pain of which was multiplied by my injuries.
My wife’s maternity leave has now ended and I have to live with the distress of knowing that I, with my injuries, have taken much of the time that she was supposed to spend bonding with our son.
Various medical professionals have said that due to the nature of my brain injuries, I should not be left alone to look after our son while my wife is at work. This has been extremely humiliating and distressing to hear and come to terms with.
Our son is now in a nursery, but in order for the medical professionals to be happy with me pushing the buggy to take my son to nursery, I had to walk to the nursery with an Occupational Therapist while he assessed if it was safe for me to walk the same route with my son.
This interference and assessments by others of if I am a safe and competent father to my son is humiliating and frustrating, but is something I have had to grow accustomed to over the past year.