SPECIAL NEW YEAR
FOR EIMEAR and Paul Brady in Kilcoole, this was a very special Christmas. Their son Alexander, now 6, broke his neck when he was 18 months old and doctors told them that his survival was almost a medical impossibility.
‘It could have been so different,’ said Eimear, adding that their daughter Sophie, (2) suffers from a heart condition. The couple’s oldest boy Marc, (9) while healthy and well, also had a lot to deal with at a young age.
Alex fell four feet from a tree house in the back garden, with his mum standing only ten feet away. She had turned her back on the boys for a moment and didn’t see Alex landing on the top of his head.
‘I brought him to the doctors who said he was fine,’ she said. ‘He was conscious. But I knew in my heart there was something wrong.’ Later in Tallaght an x-ray confirmed that toddler Alex had fractured the C1 vertebra.
‘It was like someone had pushed a knife through my heart when I heard that,’ said Eimear. ‘Doctors were amazed that he had survived and that he was not paralysed. It’s simply a miracle.’
The child then had to wear a neck brace during his recovery, and was seeing specialist Edmund ‘Ozzy’ Fogarty at regular intervals.
After complaining of stiffness in his neck in October 2007, Alex was sent by Mr. Fogarty for an emergency MRI.
In December 2007 it was confirmed that the youngster had a rare condition called Of-odontoideum, a space between the C1 and C2 vertebrae.
This could have happened as a result of his injury, or it could have been there from birth, in any case the fall eventually uncovered the fault.
‘He is like a cat with nine lives,’ said Eimear, describing her son’s bravery in the face of major surgery. Alex went in to the operating theatre for seven hours in April, when a specialist team took bone from his hip and put it in to the space between the two vertebrae and wired the whole thing up.
The following day he had to go back down to have the screws in his head tightened. Eimear was shocked when she saw him, head shaved and with a larger wound than she expected.
While this procedure did not completely correct the problem, it stabilised the spine, making life much safer for Alex. He had to wear a ‘halo’ to keep his neck supported for months after the revolutionary surgery.
He is left with just 60 per cent rotation in his neck, more or less ruling out sport for him in the future, but his parents say that the important thing is, of course, his life.
‘He will do something else as a passtime,’ said Eimear. ‘What’s important is he’s here and alive and walking around.’
She added that he is remarkably patient about not being able to go on a bouncing castle or climbing frame. ‘He knows he is not allowed but said that he knows that’s the price he has to pay for being alive,’ she said.
While the accident, and Sophie’s illness, have put the Bradys under incredible pressure, it has also made their family stronger. Paul and Eimear have pulled together under very trying circumstances, and Marc has displayed tremendous patience.
The overwhelming feeling from the family is one of gratitude that they are still together and getting on with life. ‘If you think you have problems, just go in to Crumlin Hospital for half a day,’ said Eimear. ‘We owe everything to consultants Jacques Noel, and Edmund Fogarty,’ she added.
The battle is not over for Alex, who faces another operation in January because a piece of wire is cutting in to his neck and causing him a great deal of pain. ‘It’s because of his personality that he survived,’ said Eimear. ‘Alex is a little fighter, and an unbelievable charmer!’
The Brady family - Sophie, Paul, Marc, Alex, and Eimear.