Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

'Abandoned' by health chiefs... the paralysed man who drags himself down and up the stairs

Richard McGonigle who is wheelchair bound
Richard McGonigle who is wheelchair bound

A disabled man has been dragging himself up and down the stairs of his first floor flat for months as health bosses have failed to fit adaptations to help him.

Richard McGonigle has been confined to a wheelchair since last November, but no changes have been made to his north Belfast flat – despite numerous requests for help.

The situation has raised serious concerns about Mr McGonigle's safety as he lives alone and would be unable to escape his home quickly in an emergency.

"The fire brigade has been out and said it isn't safe for me to live in the flat in its current state but I don't have any other choice," said Mr McGonigle.

The 41-year-old said he feels he is being failed by the health service and has been unable to get the medical help or assistance he needs to allow him to live an independent life.

Mr McGonigle was admitted to the Mater Hospital in September suffering from a chest complaint.

During his time there, his health deteriorated and he was diagnosed with a condition known as conversion disorder.

"I haven't been able to use my legs ever since," said Mr McGonigle.

"There are arguments going on over who should be responsible for treating me, whether it is a psychological or physical issue, and I feel I am falling between the cracks.

"I was taking up a bed in the hospital so they decided to discharge me and sent me to live in Calder Fountain in Belfast city centre while adaptations were carried out to my apartment.

"However, the trust decided it would not make any changes because my condition can get better at anytime.

"In the meantime, though, I don't feel I am getting proper support to help me recover and I don't feel safe in my own home."

Mr McGonigle said he has also been disappointed at the community care package that has been provided by the trust.

"I am not happy with what has been happening at all," he said.

"I feel like no one cares and I just don't know what to do.

"I have managed to work out a way to drag myself up and down my stairs so I can leave my flat, but I don't think I should have to resort to that. I have no idea when, or even if, I will get better but this is all very stressful, and as conversion disorder is brought on by stress the whole situation really isn't helping.

"I'm at the end of my tether. I don't know what else to do."

A spokesman for Belfast Trust said: "We are not permitted to discuss individual cases. However, we can confirm that senior managers from the trust will be meeting with Mr McGonigle very shortly to try and resolve any issues he may have in relation to his ongoing care."

Factfile

Conversion disorder is a mental health condition which manifests itself in a physical way with patients suffering from a range of involuntary symptoms, usually beginning after a stressful experience.

These include:

• Impaired co-ordination and balance

• Paralysis of an arm or leg

• Loss of sensation in a part of the body

• Loss of a sense, such as blindness or deafness

• Inability to speak

• Difficulty swallowing

• Sensory symptoms such as loss of sense of pain

• Vomiting/abdominal pain

• Seizures

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