Mother gives evidence on son's brain damage from rugby injury

Wednesday 05 March 2014 22.35
Lucas Neville's mother told the court of his repeated attempts to return to full-time education
Lucas Neville's mother told the court of his repeated attempts to return to full-time education

The mother of a student who was brain damaged by two rugby injuries has been giving evidence for a second day in his High Court case against his former school and a hospital.

Lucas Neville from Elgin Road, Ballsbridge in Dublin, has begun a €5m legal action against St Michael's College on Ailesbury Road and St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin.

The Leaving Certificate student was left brain damaged after he suffered a second head injury at a rugby match, having already been injured during training 17 days earlier.

His mother Michelle Neville told the court about his repeated attempts to return to full-time education after months of rehabilitation.

She said her son returned to his former school but he "was not himself" despite making a good effort.

She then got a phone call from the school to say it would be better if he did not go to school any more.

He was later home schooled for a time before getting a place in St Andrew's College, which he later described as "the best year of his life".

Mrs Neville told the court her son's desire to get back to school was his driving force and the day he put on the uniform was really important to him.

She said St Andrews had a very open policy for people with special needs and the entire class "took him under their wing".

He managed to pass some Leaving Cert subjects, but had to go on to another school the following year to repeat.

He is now attending a Post-Leaving Certificate course in an attempt to get into third-level education, where he wants to study applied psychology.

She said she had great belief in Lucas because she had seen him come such a long way.

Mrs Neville said he had achieved amazing results with his physical rehabilitation by working intensely on it but had residual weakness in his limbs.

He also has gaps in his memory, she said, and suffers from poor concentration.

She told the court there have been some upsetting moments, including when he was put off a bus once because the driver did not understand his condition.

He was struggling to get change from his pocket and was holding up the bus, she said.

Another time he was bitten by a dog, but did not tell her until several hours later.

She said he can go out independently now, but needs constant reminders about where he is going and what side of the road to get the bus from.

During cross examination Ms Neville said "This should not have happened to my son and that is an important thing to say out loud."

She was being questioned about her choices for her son's continuing education and her refusal to accept specialist assistance and courses for those with acquired brain injuries.

Ms Neville replied that Lucas was determined to get his life back to what it was and not go backwards; adding that to go down that route would not have been good for him psychologically.

It was suggested to her that her son was not particularly academic and that his grades were poor from first year to fifth year, to which Ms Neville replied that he was a typical teenage boy who did not apply himself, but that was entirely different to his current situation where he was studying hard with a brain injury.

She also added that if she had listened to some experts at the beginning her son would still be lying in a bed.

Some of the people who had prepared reports about Lucas for the court case "did not know Lucas" and did not know how much progress he had made, she said.

Ms Neville also said that in the past four years she had to return to teaching her son all the things he had been taught at an earlier age and that was something as a parent she never expected to have to do.

Earlier she told the court she had researched his condition extensively and worked hard with him using every method she could to assist his rehabilitation.

While he had made huge progress he continued to have physical weakness on one side, had poor concentration and some short term memory loss.

She said it was "frightening" that on occasion they would go to a shop and he would suddenly forget what they had gone there for. However she added she remained positive and would not stop working with him to get his life back on track.

Yesterday, the court heard the now 22-year-old suffered a head injury while training with St Michael's College Dublin on 11 November 2009.

He was taken to St Vincent's Hospital twice after the first injury, but an MRI scan was not carried out.

Seventeen days later, he was brought on from the substitute's bench in the last few minutes of a second team schools match.

He suffered another head injury and collapsed at the side of the pitch.

It was later discovered that the first injury had caused a chronic brain bleed and the second injury caused an acute bleed, which was life-threatening.

Mr Neville had surgery, was hospitalised until early the following year and spent a further five months in rehabilitation.

He will need continuing rehabilitative care into the future, the court was told.

The court heard he acted in films from the age of six and had appeared in television commercials.

Since the accidents, he has had to sit his Leaving Certificate four times in an attempt to gain entry to his chosen college course.

In his High Court action, he claims St Michael's College failed in its duty by allowing him to play so soon after the first injury.

It was also claimed the school failed to honour an undertaking to his mother that he would not be allowed to play rugby for at least three weeks after the first injury.

It was also claimed St Vincent's Hospital failed to carry out a CT scan when he came to the Emergency Department after the first injury, having presented with several symptoms, including loss of consciousness, mild confusion, headaches and vomiting.

He was brought back to hospital four days later still suffering from headaches and his mother requested an MRI scan, but the request was refused.

His mother also contacted the school to ensure he would not play rugby and was assured it was the school's policy that no player would be allowed back on the pitch within three weeks of receiving a concussion.

Liability has been admitted by both defendants in the case and it is now before the High Court for assessment of damages.