Cappawhite man injured in freak Australian beach accident

Sian Moloughney

Sian Moloughney

A young man from Cappawhite, who was severely injured in a freak accident on an Australian beach, has been left paralysed from the neck down.

Damien Mullins, who had been working in the sunny country for almost two years before the accident happened, is currently in rehab in a Melbourne hospital - and to the joy of his family and friends is showing miraculous signs of recovery.

Doctors told Damien he may be paralysed from the neck down for life but in recent weeks he has had feeling return to his arms and legs.

Dave Mullins, Damien’s father, spoke to The Nationalist from his home in Cappawhite, and told he was with his son when the shocking accident happened, last April.

Dave and Anne had travelled out to Australia to be with Damien and another son Brian, who both live there, for a holiday. Just a few days before they were to come home Damien and Brian were on a beach, playing a game of hurling, and posing for a photograph for their mother, when a sudden, freak, 12-foot wave came in over their heads, causing the devastating injury. His mother even has the photograph she took as the wave rolled in, before anyone realised the harm it would cause.

Damien was airlifted to hospital, where he was in intensive care for several weeks, and he has now progressed to rehab, where he is defying the odds. The initial diagnosis was that he had broken his neck.

It was Brian who first noticed something was wrong with his brother and alerted the life guards, after the accident. Damien spent 19 days in intensive care at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, a specialised trauma hospital. To stabilise his neck he had surgery to install four metal bolts, Dave said.

“At the time the doctors said he would be paralysed from the neck down. It was a living nightmare, I couldn’t even close my eyes and I was there again,” said his father. “To see his progress is phenomenal.” Dave and Anne speak to Damien every few days, and chat on Skype, where they can see the physical progress he is making.

As soon as doctors told Damien his prognosis a positive attitude in him just “switched on,” according to Dave, and his son said he would walk out of the hospital. He now has the use of his fingers and some feeling in his arms, he is starting to get some movement in his legs. He can feed himself again.

Brian, who had been living in Sydney, has moved to Melbourne to be closer to Damien as he recovers. Along with Susie, Damien’s partner, and his friends, they make sure someone is with Damien every day.

“He has such a positive attitude, I think he will walk again,” Dave said.

The rehabilitation treatment that Damien is currently having is very good, but that is due to come to an end in September. Under an agreement between Ireland and Australia his medical treatment and rehab is covered by insurance, however when that is complete he will no longer have any financial assistance in Australia, for any further treatment, ongoing medical costs, or adapting to life with his injuries. It is because of this that the community of Cappawhite had begun fund-raising for Damien.

According to Dave, because of his son’s remarkable recover up to now his carers might keep him in rehab for a longer period, now he is showing signs of recovery.

He says that it was his son’s high fitness levels before the accident that have stood to him - Damien was a young, energetic man who played hurling with St Ciaran’s in Melbourne and was in training to take part in a triathlon.

He had a good life in Australia, Dave said, with good friends and his partner Susie, and he would like to be able to stay there if at all possible. He was a block layer by trade and when things got quiet in Ireland he moved to Australia two years ago. Damien was living in Melbourne and his brother Brian in Sydney. But they have talked about bringing Damien home because he will not have any financial support if he can’t work.

St Ciaran’s have held fundraising for Damien and recently there was a night in Cappawhite to raise funds. There was a great turn out and Dave and Anne are very grateful. Other fundraising events will be organised in the future. If anyone wants to help a special account has been opened at Bank of Ireland account number 84059340, sort code 90-44-64.