Tuesday 22 August 2017

Emotional Una O’Hagan and Colm Keane open up about the death of their only son Sean at 20: ‘We were told he was going to die and I think our lives really ended at that moment’

Una O'Hagan, Colm Keane and their late son Sean pictured at the launch of 'The Teenage Years' (1997) Photo Credit: RTE Archives
Una O'Hagan, Colm Keane and their late son Sean pictured at the launch of 'The Teenage Years' (1997) Photo Credit: RTE Archives
Patricia Murphy

Patricia Murphy

RTE newsreader Una O’Hagan and her husband Colm Keane have opened up about the loss of their only son Sean and said life as they knew it ended the moment he was given a terminal diagnosis.

Speaking on The Ray Darcy Show this afternoon, Una became emotional as she spoke about the death of her only child, who lost a battle with cancer on Christmas Day in 2007 at the age of 20.

The couple revealed that their son was diagnosed with cancer and a care plan was put in place, before doctors discovered the illness had spread to his lungs and was terminal.

Speaking to Ray on Radio One, Colm said: “I remember the day that the big diagnosis came for us. They had spotted a bump on Sean’s leg. He had complained of a pain below his knee and we thought it was just a sporting injury, he loved sport."

Una O'Hagan. Photo Credit: RTE Archives
Una O'Hagan. Photo Credit: RTE Archives

"Eventually they said it was a tumour,  that they could take it out and he’d have a bit of chemotherapy and go back to school shortly. They wanted him to go in for a full body scan on Holy Thursday. We went into the hospital and I remember that it went on for quite a while, and I said it to Una.

"We went into the consultant’s office and he was sitting behind the desk, there were two chairs, and we sat down. Within two seconds we were told there was cancer all over his lungs and he was going to die. I think our lives really ended at that moment."

"Nothing will ever be the same and nothing will ever be as bad as that. Sean then was called in and that was even worse when he sat down. He tried to do his best. I had to stand up and lean against the crook of the door. I could see Sean’s hands, even though he was being very calm superficially, he was digging his nails from one hand into the other under the table,” said Colm.

Sean died at midnight on Christmas Day in 2007, and Colm and Una said they will never enjoy the holiday again. The night before he died, Colm revealed that they discussed their only son’s funeral amidst the droves of people visiting the hospital with presents.

“I can remember vividly the day before Christmas, we had to go out and talk about his funeral and he was still alive. We went to a little coffee shop in the hospital and we sat there and everyone was coming in with Christmas presents. The two of us were just bawling crying but we talked about what we were going to do."

"That day wasn’t as bad as the day we were told he was going to die, but I’ll never forget that day and we’ll never, ever enjoy Christmas again,” said Colm.

In his will, Sean left his mum and dad €35 to buy themselves a dog, which they never got around to. However, two days after moving to Waterford in 2014, a Labrador turned up at their door, which Una does not believe was coincidental.

She said: “We moved to Waterford about two years ago and about two days after we arrived we heard this ‘Woof’. Colm went out and saw this Labrador and I went out and followed him. We figured out very quickly what he wanted us to do which was mainly for us to bring him for a walk."

"When we got to the beach we had to throw stones. Then he brought us back up to the shop because he wanted food and it started a wonderful relationship. Every day he would turn up at the gate.

“I feel Sean’s presence around. I feel for example, the fact that Frankie turned up at our door, wasn’t just coincidence. Sean had actually picked the spot where we live now because he’d been at the Gaeltacht and Ring College. We knew it was for us. I think there is something else that lives on and it enables me to keep going,” said Una.

Una O'Hagan. Photo Credit: RTE Archives
Una O'Hagan. Photo Credit: RTE Archives

The pair have collaborated on a new book called ‘Animal Crackers’ which features funny stories about rogue pets.

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