Life support

Family of Sligo attack victim were about to disable life support when they got a startling result

The family of Sligo attack victim Tom Niland have revealed they were preparing to switch off their life support – when they had a last-minute glimmer of hope.

Tragic farmer Tom (72) has been in critical condition in hospital since last month – after taking a turn following a horrific aggravated burglary at his home in Skreen, Co Sligo.

And speaking exclusively to our sister newspaper The Star, Tom’s cousin Michael Walsh told how a recent final brain activity test revealed a startling result – and now the family are hoping he can survive.

“It was getting to the stage where they thought they were going to shut it down a few weeks ago and we were all prepared for that,” Michael said.

“They have to do three tests before they can legally shut down the machine.

“It has to do with the brain stems to see if there is activity there. They did two and it proved there was no activity there, but the third one was inconclusive.

“So they had to drop that and they put it on other drugs and [now it’s emerged] there’s definitely brainstem activity.

Gardai at the home of a 70-year-old man, in Skreen, Co. Sligo, who was badly beaten and hospitalized as a result

The revelation gave Tom’s family new hope that he could pull through after he was brutally attacked in his own home on the night of January 28.

But Michael says that when he visits Tom, there are no obvious signs of life – and he can only hope his cousin, whom he considered a brother, can hear him.

“There was very little with him,” Michael said.

“The fan breathes for him. If you open your eyes a little, there is nothing. There’s no answer. It’s as if he were dead but the machine does all the breathing for him.

“There is a glimmer of hope now that he could improve. Every day there is a chance that something will happen.

Doctors told Michael that Tom’s left temporal lobe was badly damaged after he was kicked in the head in the brutal attack at his home.

We now hope that his brain will work to repair itself in the days to come, and that one day soon, Tom will be able to open his eyes again.

“So there’s still hope. But we’re a long way from any serious event, you know,” Michael said.

“The most recent thing they did was because the tubes were going down into his mouth, they couldn’t go on because it could cause sores and all kinds of problems.

“So they had to take him to surgery, remove him and then give him a tracheotomy.

“It was also a critical thing because they thought he might eventually die during this process.

“But it still worked and now he’s back in the service. He clings.

Michael hopes he can be allowed into his uncle’s house, so he can clean up the mess left by the burglars.

However, the gardai told him that the house remained a crime scene – as they continued to hunt down the gang of burglars responsible for Tom’s attack.

On that front, Michael says he’s not aware of any significant progress in the Garda probe – but he remains hopeful.

Last month Superintendent Mandy Gaynor called on anyone with information to come forward.

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