A FATHER devastated after his only son was left brain-dead eight years ago has spoken of his struggle with a ‘Kafka-esque’ maze of red tape to ensure his son receives top quality care.

Murdo Mackay stressed he wants to speak out about his own family’s experience “not out of vengeance”, but to highlight the bureaucratic battles needlessly endured by relatives after his own son, Murdo John - known as ‘MJ’ - passed out in freak circumstances.

Mr Mackay said he feared for patients who do not have anyone to “fight their corner”.

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HeraldScotland: Murdo John 'MJ' Mackay

Mr Mackay, from Kittochside, near East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire, had his world turned upside down when he received a phone call from the town’s Hairmyres Hospital early one morning in August 2009 telling him MJ, then 34, had been admitted to intensive care.

Mr Mackay, a retired engineer, 72, said: “He was extremely fit. He ran marathons. He was strong as an ox, about 6ft tall. He didn’t smoke. He phoned me that particular day in 2009 high as a kite saying he had just bought a new house in Cambuslang.

“He’d bought one of those Honda super-motorbikes too that week. When I got the phonecall at 1.15am from Hairmyres, my first reaction was ‘it’s that bloody motorbike’. I always wish it had been - there would be a chance of recovery from that.”

The gas fitter had fallen asleep at home that evening - but never woke up. Oxygen starvation to his brain caused extensive damage and his life hung in the balance for six weeks.

Doctors later concluded that MJ was “globally and comprehensively brain-dead and in a persistent vegetative state”. Nonetheless, Mr Mackay has never lost hope that new research breakthroughs could offer his son some hope of recovery after a tests conducted by a German specialist showed evidence that the part of MJ’s brain responsible for verbal reasoning remains reasonably intact.

“The only thing that would make me feel better is if my son got out of bed and walked,” said Mr Mackay. “Even if it’s a chance of one in 10 million, he’s got to be given a chance.”

HeraldScotland: Hairmyres Hospital, where Murdo was a patient for eight years

However, Mr Mackay - who is married and also has a grown up daughter - said he has had to “fight tooth and nail” to get his son the best care.

In one case, an application for guardianship to take decisions over MJ’s medical care saw him end up in court.

Mr Mackay said: “There was nothing litigious in it - he wasn't married, he didn't have any children. It was the simplest of cases. I could have handled it myself, but my heart wasn’t in it so I approached this law firm I’d dealt with for decades who quoted me that it would be between £2-3000.

“Even that seemed like a helluva lot for something that is just a process, an application.

“Anyway, I duly got the guardianship and the invoice came in for £9,600.

“I phoned them up and said ‘that’s outrageous - I’m not paying that’.”

Mr Mackay went to court and represented himself against the law firm.

He said: “I was on my feet for over two hours in that courtroom, and at the end of it the Sheriff reduced it by £3,600 to £6000. But not everybody would have done that - for most law abiding people, court is an intimidating place’.”

However, Mr Mackay said one of the toughest experiences has been choosing a care home for his son, now 43, where he can continue to receive round-the-clock attention.

He said he was left furious after feeling under pressure from hospital managers and staff and Hairmyres to move his son into a brain injury rehabilitation centre in Lanarkshire - only to discover that it had received a damning report from inspectors.

He said: “I was being told this was absolutely wonderful, the facilities were great, the stimulation would be great. So I did some checking and went onto the Care Inspectorate, who had just published an audit on it, and the facilities and the care was so bad they were given six weeks to sort it out, or else it would be shut down. I was very angry at that. I thought ‘they must think my head buttons up the back’. They were clearly just doing that to get rid of him, to free up a bed.”

HeraldScotland: Hamilton Sheriff Court, where Mr Mackay represented himself in a dispute over guardianship fees

Earlier this year, Mr Mackay finally settled on Flemington Care Home in Cambuslang. A moving date of August 28 was agreed and Mr Mackay was assured that funding of £1700 a week was in place between the Lanarkshire Health and Social Care Partnership and the private facility.

However, on Friday August 25 - while he was on holiday in Jura - Mr Mackay received a phonecall from the care home owner telling him the funding had not been approved.

With the ferry broken down, Mr Mackay was stranded and could not return to the hospital until the Monday morning - where he found his son’s belongings cleared from his room and an ambulance waiting to transfer him to the Flemington home.

Mr Mackay called a halt to the move and, after 21 phonecalls and meetings with management, finally had the funding cleared. He said he felt the last-minute hitch had been “engineered” to cut costs.

He said: “The nicest interpretation I could put on the situation was gross incompetence, but I don’t believe that to be the case. I think it was a callous and shabby and sinister move to get my son into the home, and once he was there the HSCP could pay what it liked, because he would never get back into Ward 12 at Hairmyres. [Flemington] would be left with a choice to accept less money - or turf him out.”

However, Mr Mackay praised the "kind" staff at the Flemington facility, adding: “It means a lot to me. Medicine isn’t just about sowing people up and fixing broken bones. It’s about making people feel better."

Susan Friel, chief of nursing services at University Hospital Hairmyres, said social work and all clinical staff are involved in decisions on moving patients from hospital in such cases. It was only done when safe and the destination had been agreed upon, she said.

She added: “It is important that patients have the right care, in the right place, at the right time and for those patients who require long term care and support, this is more appropriately provided within a homely setting.

“We regret any instance where an individual feels that we have failed to provide the highest standards of care and we are always happy to discuss any concerns they have.”