GERRY Murray, the father of Ireland and Munster rugby star Conor Murray, praised the “superb” paramedics, doctors, and nurses for saving his life after he was struck by an articulated lorry while cycling near his Patrickswell home earlier this year.
Staff at University Hospital Limerick, Cork University Hospital, and St Camillus’ Hospital in Limerick jointly helped bring Mr Murray back from the brink after he suffered a traumatic brain injury in the collision last February.
Speaking for the first time since the near fatal smash, the 69-year-old father of three revealed how, after waking up from an induced coma and learning how to walk again through a gruelling physiotherapy programme, he still suffers with painful nerve damage in his right hand, poor mobility, as well as permanent deafness in his left ear.
Speculation he had made a full recovery “couldn’t be further from the truth”, he said, but he is hopeful his health can further improve with time.
“The doctors told me that I’m looking at a minimum of a year to recover from that type of a head injury. I have a long road ahead of me,” Mr Murray admitted.
The minutes leading to the crash remain fresh in his mind, but he has no memory whatsoever of the collision itself which, he offered, is “probably a blessing”.
‘Four weeks later I wake up with my family around me’
The moment he slowly emerged from an induced coma, which doctors had put him into in order to prevent infection and swelling in his brain, was a joy for his family but a major shock to his system.
“I had been on my regular cycling route. I’m on the hard shoulder, cycling on, and then four weeks later I wake up with my family around me in the hospital bed in Cork.”
“I was very confused and then my wife Barbara told me I had been in a very severe accident. I said I hadn’t, I couldn’t remember anything, and she said I had very severe brain trauma”.
Murray was rushed by ambulance from the scene of the collision to UHL where an MRI scan confirmed he had sustained a serious brain injury.
He was transferred to CUH, where he spent seven weeks fighting to stay alive.
“They told me I was taken to UHL and intubated, and then, at CUH, the neurosurgeon fitted a pressure monitor on my head and thank God the pressure stabilised and began to drop over a period of when I was in the coma.”
“A lot of rehabilitation followed, very basic stuff, trying to walk. I couldn’t walk 10 yards without using a walking frame. CUH were just fantastic, every one of them, they are a superb team.”
“They have their own physiotherapy department and they would wheel me down there on a wheelchair every day, it was tough.”
“I would have to try and find my balance – they had a guy in front of me and one behind me to make sure I didn’t fall, because the tendency, for me, was to fall over.”
Psychological scars have also left their mark on Murray. Before the collision he regularly played 18 rounds, rode a motorbike, and routinely cycled more than 100km a week, but, he said, “I wouldn’t even attempt that at this stage”.
Murray feels sad at the stresses his family experienced when maintaining a vigil at his hospital bed.
“I feel sad for them, watching me like that, but I told them they needn’t have worried because while I was in the coma I had really nice vivid dreams.”
World Cup plans
Murray said he knows he is lucky to be alive, but added his injuries have frustrated his plans to attend all of Ireland’s Rugby World Cup pool matches in France and shout on his son Conor from the stadium seats.
Flying is currently not an option for him, so Murray took the ferry to France to watch Conor help steer Ireland’s emphatic victory over Tonga – but said the impact on his ears soured the moment.
“It is causing me a lot of issues in a crowd, in a stadium it is nearly ridiculous. After the Tonga match, I said ‘never again’, all the pressure comes in from through the one ear and blows my head off.”
Watching Conor’s involvement in Ireland’s dramatic victory over reigning World Cup champions South Africa on a television screen at the family home in Patrickswell, he says, was a “bittersweet moment”.
The measure of the Irish victory refuelled Murray’s ambition to return to France by ferry in the hope of seeing Conor get more game time. Though this time he will bring ear plugs.
“I’m immensely proud of Conor, we exchanged a few texts after the South Africa match, he was thrilled with the result.”
“He has spent the past 12 years at the early stages of the World Cup, but the Irish team are in a great spot now, and he has settled into this role of being an impact sub. Yes he wants to be the starting number nine, but he can also see that even with 20 minutes to go in these matches, he can do enough to influence the game.”
Murray said he believes Ireland can now drive on and win the tournament for the first time ever.
“I think their chances are excellent, Ireland have shown over the last few years, no matter who you put up against them, be it South Africa, Australia, whoever, that they can come up with a winning plan through the coaching staff and execute it.”