North East Wales

Parents bring Rhys Thomas home after four-year fight

Rhys Thomas at home with his family
Image caption Home at last... Rhys Thomas with his family

The father of a young man who suffered severe brain damage after choking on chewing gum says it has been a four-year battle to get him home.

Rhys Thomas, 20, of Holywell, Flintshire, was left disabled after gum became lodged in his windpipe in 2007.

Since then he has been in various hospitals and homes while his family have been trying to get him home.

Health officials have apologised, saying lessons have been learned.

Graham Thomas has described his frustration at the way the family were sent "from pillar to post " as they tried to make arrangements for his son to be looked after at home.

A £100,000 extension at the family home, paid for with community support as well as a £35,000 grant, is now being used to house Rhys along with specialist carers.

'Winning or losing'

"The system works in a way that it wants you to fail, if you fall at the first hurdle: That's one less person for them to be worried about, and concerned about," says Mr Thomas.

"To anybody who's listening you've got to be determined and not accept 'no' from anybody, and pursue them even if it takes year and years.

"It's not a case of winning or losing, but you can achieve what you set out to achieve."

Mr Thomas says the move was delayed several times and he hopes lessons have been learnt to avoid another family going through a similar ordeal.

In a statement, the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, which is funding Rhys's care, has apologised.

The statement said: "The health board is very sorry that despite significant efforts made by Rhys' family, health board staff and other agencies, that it took so long for Rhys to return home.

'Valuable lessons'

"Planning Rhys' discharge and home care has been a very lengthy process due to the complexity of his care needs.

"We have also learnt valuable lessons about how to speed up the process in such unique circumstances."

Rhys was 15 when he had been chewing gum before he went to bed.

It became lodged in his windpipe and he suffered a heart attack, thought to have been caused by lack of oxygen.

Mr Thomas said the family were initially told they could bring Rhys home for 24-hour care by November, but delays were caused by the need to recruit and then train specialist staff.

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