Limerick woman paralysed by rare disease chronicles struggle in book

Patricia Ingle

A Limerick woman who was awarded €7.5m after contracting a rare disease that has left her paralysed and in a wheelchair has written a book about her struggle.

In 2011, Patricia Ingle, who spent 1,069 days in hospital, after contracting chlamydia psittacosis in 2008, was awarded one of the highest sums handed down by the High Court.

Patricia had alleged that she had become sick after working in a pet store.

She has defied the prognosis of doctors, but is now dependent on a ventilator and has to be tube-fed. A lump sum of €3m was immediately paid to her, following the high-profile case.

Patricia said that given all she has endured, she could be “bitter, angry, annoyed, sour, argumentative, and rude, but I’m not. That is all behind me and I’m moving forward and leaving that person behind. I’m now happy. I’m out living my life and going places,” she said.

Her book, I Am Free, has been described by broadcaster, Miriam O’Callaghan, who has visited Patricia in Limerick, as “a life-affirming story of hope”. Ms O’Callaghan will launch the book in O’Mahony’s bookstore, in Limerick, on Monday, September 5, from 5pm.

Patricia’s father, Pat, said when Patricia was released from hospital, there were three key things she wanted to do — and she has now achieved two of them: “The first thing she wanted was to have a big party to celebrate her return home; she wanted to write her book; and build her own house. She has it designed and is waiting on planning permission, at the moment, for her new home, and, hopefully, it will come through soon, after she turns 28, on September 6. She has been trying for several years now to get a site and get planning permission.”

“She was a week shy of her 20th birthday when she fell down with this illness. It’s now five years since she was released from hospital. Her health is good, but she still has her challenges and, no matter what life throws at her, she remains very upbeat.

“She has great heart, and inspires us every day. She really keeps us going and we’re amazed by her,” he told the Limerick Leader.

Patricia is still on a ventilator at night, and uses a speaking valve. She also undergoes regular physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech and language therapy.

The book was written with the assistance of Cork-based ghostwriter and publisher, Mary Malone, who is also a published author under her own name.

Patricia took the legal action against the pet shop, PetMania, its parent company, O’Keeffe’s of Kilkenny Ltd, and the HSE, over alleged negligent mismanagement of her condition. The claims were denied.

Patricia began working for Petmania, on the Ennis Road, in Limerick, when she was aged 19.

However, she said she received no health and safety training, nor warnings about the dangers of working with animals. It was alleged she contracted the disease as a result of inhaling dust from the faeces of parrots suffering from chlamydia psittacosis — an airborne infection that can be transmitted from birds to humans.

Her survival amazed experts, with one medic in the Oxford Centre for Enablement saying: “I’ve seen your scans — you’re not supposed to be here”.”


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