06 Oct 2022

Crash survivor makes impassioned plea to young drivers

Crash survivor makes impassioned plea to young drivers

Barry Murphy recounting the events that led to a serious injury collision which left him with horrific injuries in 2006 and his long road to recovery. He is accompanied by PJ Commins, the paramedic w

A road crash survivor is urging young drivers to act responsibly after he was involved in an accident which left him unable to walk, talk, read, write or remember anything about his childhood or family. 

In 2006, 22 year old Barry Murphy from Killenaule was a back seat passenger in a single car collision which left him with life threatening injuries and in a coma for two months.

Barry and a friend, both of whom were wearing  seatbelts,  were travelling in the car of an acquaintance when the driver lost control and hit a wall.  They had only travelled half a mile when the rear of the car impacted with the wall at 100kmph,  wedging the vehicle  into the 3ft wide wall. 

When first responders arrived at the scene they didn’t realise there were three passengers in the car. It would take almost 75 minutes to cut Barry out of the vehicle  in what doctors later explained to Barry is called the ‘golden hour’ otherwise known as the time period when medical intervention can prevent death following a serious accident.

Barry would go on to spend eight weeks in a coma and when he woke up had no recollection of the accident, his family, memories of his childhood or his name. He would have to  learn to walk, talk, write, feed and dress himself again. 

“I was a child in a man’s body,” he tells the 200 strong crowd of secondary school students at the annual Road Safety Awareness programme run by Thurles Traffic Corps in conjunction with the RSA. Over the two day seminar not a whisper can he heard when Barry gets up to tell his story.  

Among his injuries, Barry sustained 16 fractures to his arm, swelling of the brain, a shattered skull, broken jawbone, shattered cheekbone, ruptured bowel and underwent a tracheotomy while in hospital. He can no longer play any kind of contact sport.

“I have no memories of my life. I can’t remember 21 Christmas’, birthdays.  From what I was told I was a happy go lucky lad.”

On the night of the accident Barry was rushed to Cork University Hospital where his parents were told he had a 10 percent chance of survival. 

“I could have been coming back in a box,” he says - again not a sound from the crowd. 

Doctors operated immediately and found there was only space for a sheet of paper between Barry’s brain and skull due to the swelling - “if it swelled any more I’d be dead,” he explains.

Amazingly Barry defied the odds and survived the night however he would go on to spend eight weeks in a coma. When he eventually woke up he had no recollection of his life before the accident.

After leaving hospital Barry went on to a rehab facility in Dun Laoighaire where he would spend almost four years learning to walk, talk, write, read, dress and feed himself and live independently once again. 

Since then his recovery has been remarkable and for the last seven years Barry has been a guest speaker at the Thurles Traffic Corps Road Safety seminar series urging students to think before they get behind the wheel of a car.

“Don't be afraid to tell someone slow down or cop on. In 0.25 of a second my life was changed forever. Be smart on the roads, please just slow down,” he said.     

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