I thought I would never get the opportunity to write this article because I was going to die. That was what I was told a few short weeks ago in St. James’s Hospital in Dublin. I had been there since the 28th November. They were ceasing treatment. My wife started making arrangements for palliative care. I wanted to go home. Then thanks to a genius move by my brilliant Oncologist Dr. Cuffe there was a glimmer of hope. There was a whisper at the top of my right lung. To put this in context I had been admitted with an infection but as a patient who had previously had a tumour removed, it was feared that there might be cancer cells at work.
I knew then what was involved. I had to cough up all the muck in my lung and reflate it. It was going to be hard work and agony. There was no way I could have done it without the support of close friends and family, who I knew were rooting for me all the way. First of all I want to thank my wife who practically lived in my hospital room, minding me and encouraging me every single day, and my children who were there when they could be. I saw my newest grand-daughter through the glass when I was in Intensive Care. I thought for a while I might never see her again. For the good friends who came to be by my side who knew I was on the knife edge, from all of you I drew strength.
It is inevitable when you face a herculean task that you draw on your inner strengths. During my school days I was an athlete. My best distance was ten miles. So I started applying the same resolve, hauling myself out of bed to walk a little more each day. The big gaol was to get to Hollywood, a ward on the same floor as mine but some distance by corridor. I felt delighted with myself when I managed it for the first time. By the time I left the hospital I was going there and back 16 times a day.
Most important are the Staff in the hospital. After two months and six days I got to meet a lot of them and the kindness, sympathy and courtesy I encountered was unparalleled. My special thanks go to all the team on Private 3. The special care I received I will never forget. By God, do nurses work hard. There are too many to name. However, Helen in Catering who brought me jelly and ice-cream, has to get a mention.
On 29th January I returned to my home, a place to which a few weeks before I would have been returning under very different circumstances. It was late evening, there was a carpet of snowdrops on the drive, not a cloud in the sky as the evening light shone on the Boyne. A beautiful shimmering moon arose. It felt like magic. It seems like a second chance. I am alive, thanks to Dr. Cuffe and her team, and the nurses on Private 3.