Northern Ireland dad's anger at incorrect diagnosis of brain damaged son
A father from Larne has claimed his son has suffered from serious brain damage for over 20 years without help, following an incorrect diagnosis of his condition.
Jason McCluggage (28) was involved in a serious car accident at the age of four which nearly killed him.
Doctors told his parents Brendan Callaghan and Maureen McCluggage that his brain had been starved of oxygen after the accident, causing him permanent damage.
Following the assessment, he was awarded a form of Disability Living Allowance. Aged nine, he was reassessed by a doctor at the family home to check if he was still eligible for the allowance. The family were told that Jason was functioning normally and so his allowance was stopped.
His father said that from then on, his son's life was made a misery, and that he endured vicious bullying at school.
Leaving education at 15, he also struggled to keep a job, with one employer sacking him after believing him to be drunk - his father said this was down to a misunderstanding about his condition.
"All we could do is love him," he said. "We had no help."
Six weeks ago, his son complained of headaches, which led to a reassessment of his condition at the Regional Acquired Brain Injury Unit at Musgrave Hospital.
Mr Callaghan said the result was a confirmation of a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The permanent symptoms include memory impairment, ongoing problems with concentration and problem solving, as well as anxiety and depression.
To give a sense of the problems his son faces on a daily basis, Mr Callaghan said: "He knows everything about football, but you can't explain to him how a washing machine works. Simple tasks like that are very difficult for him."
He added that other everyday issues, such as small breaks in routine and going to new places, could be overwhelming for Jason. Mr Callaghan has said that there are now serious questions to answer regarding the last two decades - as to why his son had not been given the help that he needed and if he should be granted compensation. He has written to the Disability and Carers Service in Belfast about the situation and said he has been told the matter is being investigated.
A spokesperson for the Department for Communities said: "While the department does not comment on individual cases, we can confirm we are aware of this case and will be in touch with the family."
Although vindicated over his son's injuries, 58-year-old Mr Callaghan said he is increasingly worried about his son's future and how he will survive when his parents are no longer able to support him.
"He was our first-born child. I can't even begin to tell you what it was like, to try and deal with this situation for all these years.
"I'm at an age now where I need to know Jason will be taken care of for the rest of his life. Maureen is still traumatised by this. I just want to know why - all the memories, heartache and nonsense we've had to put up with and to be accused of telling lies, with people saying he had no brain damage for so long."