BY Rachel Cunningham
This summer marks the eighth year since Pádraig Schäler suffered a severe brain injury after he was hit on his bike in the USA.
The young Dubliner had spent the summer on a J1 visa in the States after completing his undergraduate degree at Trinity College Dublin.
“Pádraig’s wide range of medical treatment experiences in the intervening years helped to inspire the establishment of An Saol Foundation in 2014”. This has the express aim of providing adequate and on-going support for people with a severe acquired brain injury (SABI).
Last January, An Saol Foundation opened Ireland’s first neuro-rehabilitation Day Centre in Santry and it has managed to operate at a reduced level despite the Covid-19 restrictions.
The centre is a three-year pilot project backed by €1.5m of HSE funding. It provides clear evidence of the effectiveness of delivering neuro-rehabilitation based on research and practices that are already well established in countries such as Germany, where Pádraig travelled to for hands-on treatment and rehabilitation.
The services in Santry include robotic gait therapy, training clients in communication aides, in addition to social activities and family programmes.
This month, to assist in the funding of the important work of the centre, An Saol launched its first Iron-Month challenge. With over 70 participants spanning Ireland, Spain, Poland, Germany and the Canary Islands, the challenge involves an Ironman-style triathlon (42.2k run/walk, 180.2k cycle, 3.9k swim), to be completed remotely throughout May at each individual’s own pace. This attitude also reflects the An Saol Foundation ethos, bringing athletes across all levels together for a common goal.
Reinhard Schäler, CEO of the An Saol Foundation, commented: “The IronMonth Challenge is the first event of its kind to promote physical activity for those who have long been left behind and forgotten, those with severe neurological injuries or conditions, especially those with a severe Acquired Brain Injury.
“We need a change of heart and mind to recognise that everybody benefits from physical activity – no matter how independently you can pursue it,” he emphasised.
The organiser of the challenge, Andrew King, expressed delight at the support via social media and the foundation’s GoFundMe thus far: “It has been amazing to see the enthusiastic response from the service users of An Saol’s NeuroRehab Centre, as well as their supporters from all over Europe. This is the first #IronMonth Challenge of many more to come. The challenge will change this by promoting equality and inclusivity, physical exercise for all. We will leave no one behind.”