Kevin Ryan, Deputy Robert Troy, Finola Shanley and Jim Bourke at Mullingar Autos.

‘New lease of life’ after TD drives woman to Belfast for operation

A Killucan woman says that she has a “new lease of life” after she became one of a growing number of people from this side of the border to travel to Northern Ireland to have a cataract removed.

Diagnosed with a cataract a number of years ago, Finola Shanley’s condition deteriorated rapidly around October last. Mrs Shanley says that losing her sight in one eye had affected both her quality of life and her state of mind.

“Suddenly I couldn’t really see anything. I love to read and I couldn’t do it. I also had to give up driving. It was absolutely horrible,” she said.

To make a bad situation worse, shortly after he eyesight deteriorated, she received a letter informing her that there she would have to six years if she wanted to get her cataract removed through the HSE.

Having heard about the Northern Ireland Planned Healthcare Scheme (formerly known as the Cross Border Directive), she got in touch with Deputy Robert Troy, has he helped seven groups of local pensioners organise trips to the Kingsbridge Private Hospital in Belfast for the procedure.

A bus had been booked to take Mrs Shanley and the other six or seven who were to travel to Belfast, but it had to be cancelled after a few people opted to travel by themselves due to concerns about contracting Covid and other issues.

Worried that cataract sufferers would have to cancel their procedures, Deputy Troy borrowed a seven-seat vehicle from Jim Bourke at Mullingar Autos and drove them up the night before for their pre-procedure check ups. They stayed overnight in Belfast and the TD drove them back the following day.

Deputy Troy says he hadn’t planned to drive Ms Shanley, who was accompanied by her husband Nicholas, and the remainder of the group to Belfast, but he was eager that they wouldn’t be out of pocket or have to cancel their procedures.

“The bus would have been extremely expensive for them. I didn’t want to ask people to pay extortionate sums of money for a bus, so I drove them up.

“Jim [Bourke from Mullingar Autos] was very obliging and I just had to transfer over my insurance.”

Mrs Shanley says she was surprised when she realised that Deputy Troy was driving her and her travelling companions up to Belfast.

“I couldn’t believe it. He was absolutely wonderful. I would have gone blind if I’d had wait six years. I have got a new lease of life. I am a big reader and I am so glad I can read again. Robert is putting on another bus at the end of February. I have a cataract in my other eye and I’d say I’ll be on the bus.”

Deputy Troy says that while the procedure is relatively straight forward, having it done significantly improves people’s quality of life.

“One man was close to tears. He lives on his own and couldn’t drive. He said that he was becoming a prisoner in his own home and was particularly happy to be able to go up.

“We have done seven trips and will be doing another one in the new year. As long as there is a need I will keep facilitating people.”