Sunday 19 January 2020

'You are entitled to be upset' - Moving scenes of Irish woman's devotion to her sick husband on RTE

A devoted Jackie O’Flynn strokes her husband Micheál's (43) face as he spends his 70th day in ICU.
A devoted Jackie O’Flynn strokes her husband Micheál's (43) face as he spends his 70th day in ICU.
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

The touching story of one woman’s devotion to her seriously-ill husband will be seen on Irish TV screens tomorrow night.

Jackie O’Flynn tends to her husband Micheál O’Flynn (43) every day in the Mater Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit, talking to him and monitoring his progress.

Micheál, from Ballingarry, Co Limerick, is battling complications from swine flu, and he and Jackie will feature in RTE’s new five-part series Keeping Ireland Alive: The Health Service in a Day.

When the camera crews join the devoted couple in May, Micheál was in the midst of his 70th day in ICU. He developed severe viral pneumonia after he contracted swine flu, and he now has severe myopathy - his entire muscle system has broken down.

The pair should be celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary that very day together, but instead, Jackie and Micheál must mark it by their bedside.

“You are doing great... You are entitled to be upset, we are going to be alright,” Jackie tells her husband in an emotional scene.

“You’re doing so great, do you know that? You’re doing so good,” she tells him.

“I more or less celebrated [the anniversary] on my own, but I was celebrating the fact that he was still here. He is still here and there is still hope and while there is hope, you have to hold on to it.”

“He is a strong man and he has been fighting,” she said.

“He got very sick, very quickly. Part of the time, they thought he mightn’t make it because he was so sick.”

Micheál faces at least a year-long recovery, where he'll undergo phsyiotherapy and also try to avoid further infection.

Jackie said: “I just want to get back to my normal everyday life at home with the children and I can’t because my beautiful husband is in a bed, very sick.”

“He probably won’t be the same man he was for at least a year so it’s going to take him that length of time to recover. But he’s got us, he’s got me and I’m not going anywhere. I’ve told him ‘I’m not going anywhere until I’m going home with him’.”

RTE was given "unprecedented access" to the Irish health service for filming, and 75 different crews were stationed throughout the country over a 24-hour period on May 21.

The series has been described as “a huge undertaking” which will prove to be a first for Irish TV.

At Beaumont Hospital, consultant neurosurgeon Mr David O’Brien prepares to carry out a major surgery to remove a tumour from the spine of bus driver Brendan Flanagan.

Left untreated, the tumour would see Brendan paralysed within a year but the operation to remove the growth is high risk and extremely delicate.

Meanwhile, in Naas, Tommy McCormack is living with dementia but one of the highlights of his week is taking part in the Kildare Pastimes Choir, aimed at people living with dementia, their families and carers.

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