‘Miracle’ Longstanton student Tadgh McEntee comes home after doctors feared he wouldn’t wake up
Following a coma and 10 months in hospital, a former Swavesey Village College student has been called a “miracle boy” after finally being allowed back home.
Last summer, Tadgh McEntee, 20, was discovered unconscious and suffering from brain damage following an accident at his home during a gap year in America.
His mum, Trish Betts Masters, 50, was warned by doctors he may not survive the week when she rushed from her home in Longstanton to his bedside in a Kentucky hospital.
But following 10 months in which she sat with him all day every day, reading aloud his favourite books, talking about his beloved pets and hosting Zoom calls with his Cambridge friends, he is doing better than anyone expected.
Now Trisha is hoping to raise enough money to buy him an emotional support dog after a meeting with one of the specially trained animals at hospital proved to be a huge boost for Tadgh’s recovery.
Trish says: “When I arrived at hospital in America I was told that the doctors didn’t think he was going to survive because he was in a coma and his body was doing this thing called brainstorming where his temperature, heart rate and blood pressure were all elevated and it was really extreme. So he was on medication to keep that under control but it couldn’t always stop it happening.
“There were even discussions about whether he was an organ donor. But I could not even think about losing him.
“The day I heard Tadgh had been taken to hospital, I remember I was in the kitchen in my home in Longstanton. I was in a state of shock, and I sat down at the kitchen table, and I said in my head ‘I would sell my soul to the devil right now to save him’. And then another voice in my head, somebody else, said, ‘or to God, whoever gets to us first’. And since then, whatever you want to call God, whether you want to call it love or the power of positivity, that has been with me.
“I just never stopped believing Tadgh would be well enough for me to bring him home, I think that was my power. It was just my unwavering belief, my unwavering faith that I was going to bring him home to Longstanton. Because basically I couldn't contemplate life without him.
“If we were to have lost him, I would have believed he had gone back to the energy source. That’s how I was going to have to deal with the next 40 years of my life without him. And the fear of knowing that pain, whenever I felt that fear, I just prayed. I've always had my faith, my faith got me through it.”
Trisha flew out to be with her son in America and his siblings Alannah and Turlough soon followed. During the weeks Tadgh spent in a coma, Trisha was by his bedside all day, every day, chatting to him, telling him news from home, running Zoom calls from his friends and reading to him even though he couldn’t respond.
“When he was in the coma I used to sit there every day and read to him,” says Trisha, “And one of his favourite books is The Universe versus Alex Woods. I even wrote to the author and got a response and read that out to Tadgh. I just remember reading that book one day and he opened his eyes and looked at me. I knew that he had seen me.
“His neurologist came in and witnessed it. She looked in his eyes and said I know you are in there. She turned to me and said ‘I believe he deserves a chance’.
“And I replied, ‘Well I'm giving him a chance.’
“She was amazing and has stayed in contact with us.”
Tadgh continued to look at his mum and move his eyes when she was reading and then fall unconscious again.
“That went on for weeks,” says Trisha. “And then one day he just looked at me and carried on looking at me, and then went back to sleep. He was out of his coma.”
After that, he was weaned off the IV drugs he needed during his coma and he slowly began to make progress.
“Little by little he came back,” says Trisha. “I can remember the first time he smiled. He was doing Facetime with his friends from Longstanton. It was massive, huge! And they of course didn't know that it was his first smile. But then he started to make sounds.”
It wasn’t a smooth path to recovery, however. Tadgh suffered with pneumonia and had MRSA in his knee due to an overexertion injury caused by thrashing around during ‘brainstorming’.
Trisha said: “His knee blew up, and they were concerned that the MRSA had gone into the bone, which would have meant amputation, even though they didn't voice that to me. But thankfully he recovered.”
Trisha would often lie next to her son when she was at the hospital as it calmed him enough so he could get some sleep. The first words he uttered came when he woke up after one such nap, looked at Trish and said: “My mummy.”
“It took my breath away,” she says.
The key turning point with Tadgh’s reactions and speech came soon afterwards when he was introduced to the hospital’s emotional support dog.
“In the hospital they brought in this huge labradoodle called Charlie and Tadgh’s face lit up and he began cuddling and kissing it and they really bonded. He would say ‘yeah’, when the dog came in even though he was still being mostly non-verbal with everyone else.”
After the 10 months, Tadgh was finally well enough to leave the rehabilitation hospital and spend time with his mum and family friends regaining some strength before flying back to the UK.
He is now able to live at home with daytime care, but can sit up in his wheelchair, enjoy eating and is starting to communicate more with friends and family.
“When he left the hospital the nurses were calling him their miracle boy because nobody thought he would come this far or that he would be coming home, except me.
"Now he's back he will laugh at his friends’ messages on Snapchat so we know he can read them and recognises friends in the street as well as visitors to the house,” says Trisha.
“He has some speech, which appears to be automatic at the moment, but what makes him the most animated is when my friend visits with her dog.
“The first time he met her, he said ‘so cute!’. And they just cuddled up to each other. She brings him so much joy. That’s why I want him to have his own emotional support dog, as I think it will make a huge difference to the quality of his life.”
Trish plans to hold cake and clothes sales in the village hall to make some money and a school friend of Tadgh’s has set up a Just Giving page to raise the extra cash needed to purchase and train the dog.
The mum of three also credits Tadgh’s loyal friends for helping him to move further into recovery.
She says: “You could imagine kids that age might drift away when someone's had a bad injury. But no, they're amazing. They visit all the time. There’s never a day goes by when he doesn’t have a visitor. And his tight circle of friends are incredible with him.
”They treat him like the same as they were before, laughing at the same jokes and he gets the jokes. He and his friend Archie have matching scars on their arms, which they made together when they were younger like teenage boys do. Archie showed him the scar and Tadgh said ‘I did that’. So, they are really good for him. Teenagers get a lot of bad press but I don’t believe that if something like this happened in my generation, that we would have been able to cope with it in the same way.”
She also believes Tadgh’s strength of character has played a large part in his returning health.
“He’s got tremendous spirit determination. He loves the heart of a lion and he fights with the heart of a lion as well,” says Trisha.
Donate to Tadgh's fundraising campaign here.