6. The people who have kept us afloat
Apart from Ritamary, Eamonn, Jason, Teresa, Phyllis and Robert’s cousins – all already mentioned here (http://bit.ly/IVqNCt), there are many others who have been of enormous help over the last seven months.
My family are brilliant – my brother Sam has travelled from Cork several times to see us, and my sister Martha and nephews Michael and Iain are there any time I need them. My brother Gerard phones from Germany regularly with pep talks and sound advice, and my mother is a little rock out there in Dun Laoghaire, sending us prayers, love and best wishes.
Robert’s colleagues here at Fanagans Funeral Directors (http://bit.ly/wZVML7) (also my employers, and the best ever) send regular messages and also look after our car as only they can – professionally. It’s been started, washed and waxed to within an inch of it’s life thanks to Rocky, Anto, Warren, Keith and Aidan (hope I didn’t leave anyone out). This means a lot to me, but even more to Bob – when I told him they’d done this I got a reaction, a very definite reaction: he was either annoyed or very touched. I think it was the latter.
The directors of Fanagans: David, Jody, Alan, Gus, Mr Joe and John Bolger, are supportive to a degree of which I cannot express my appreciation. David Fanagan’s statement to me when this happened: ‘It’s your job to look after Robert and it’s our job to look after you’ left me in a puddle of grateful emotion, and they have looked after me. I’m not alone while they’re around.
In the medical arena we’ve had support from Professor John Reynolds and Dr Siobhan Hutchinson of St James’s Hospital who have been advising us on Robert’s condition all these months; Jane Culligan and Fiona Ryan from the National Rehabilitation Hospital who gave their valuable time on the phone with practical advice.
The staff in Bennetts Ward are incredible: when I’m not there there’s somebody sitting with him, watching over him. One of the nurse chaps even requests to work that side of the ward where Bob’s room is, and calls him ‘The Bobster’ (he’ll love that…). They are great to us and take care of Bob so well. They even insist on feeding me sometimes, and Janet, Claire and Frank bring me cups of tea and cheese sandwiches. Bennetts Ward – the best ward in any hospital. God bless them.
In the UK we met with Dr Derick Wade of the OCE (he must use more than two fingers to type…) who crackles with so much energy, willingness and expertise it’s staggering; Michelle Jeffries of the Frenchay BRIU in Bristol who’s not only lovely but oozes ability and competence; Mark Coxwell and Tim (didn’t get his last name) from the scenic Glenside Manor Rehabiltation Centre who gave generously of their time and advice, and Marietta Clegg in the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in Putney – also lovely and eminently efficient and concerned. We were two and half days in the UK and met with nothing but respect and a pro-activeness that was hard to ignore. Also, we were collected at the airport by our friend Jane Slade who had already come over from the UK to visit and offer the support of herself and her husband Kevin.
Bob’s friends and fellow musicians Brian Harris, Chris Meehan, Bob Kelly, Jimmy Compton, Brendan Bonass, Fran Breen, Breda Harris, Paul Fairclough, Declan Kennedy and Brian Dunning all keep in touch with encouragement for me and best wishes for Bob and I tell him about that.
I have had help and advice from many quarters: my first inspiration Imelda Carolan whose determination and spirit fired me up with new energy (I’m a bit in awe of her); from Catherine Aspel (a lovely woman who is a force unto herself) and Paul Barrett (a true gentleman and scholar) initially contacted through Bri Ireland (http://bit.ly/JgiErd), both of whom have gone beyond the call of duty to steer me in the right direction with hours of conversation and good advice; my friend Margaret Garrigan who empathises with and consoles me, and whose love for her late husband Bernard is inspiring; my friend Declan Keely who made himself available day or night; my friend and colleague Sharon Kavanagh who was – and still is – a rock, particularly during the early days of this disaster with her philosophy – ‘don’t give up’ (a message I was to hear repeated later on), our good friend Pattie Kelly who’s always ready to listen patiently and provides gorgeous toiletries on a regular basis for Robert’s care; Ignatious and all the lads at Bri for telling their stories and being so friendly (and sharing their biscuits), and lastly Simon from the Whitefriar Community Centre who told me of his experience and gave me a big hug too – twice. The list is long. Aren’t we lucky?