Sunday 19 November 2017

'When someone you love is ill, nothing else matters'

Florence Horsman Hogan sees dignity, fortitude and humour, along with great sadness, in a couple living with tragedy

I'd heard about Tommy O'Mara through his daughter Carrie, who works with me as a health care assistant on the ward I manage. Carrie, a diminutive, mischievous blonde with a gargantuan personality, is someone everyone loves -- and so, when we heard her father had become seriously ill, we all wanted to help her in any way we could. I was delighted when I heard that her parents were prepared to meet me.

The writing had been on the wall for Tommy for over a year. A very youthful 69, his increasingly failing memory and tendency to fall asleep had led the couple to believe they were facing the degenerative brain disease, Alzheimer's. Tommy begged Pat, his wife of 35 years, not to say anything to their two daughters Carrie and Susan, nor to their friends.

Love and loyalty for him led to the 56-year-old Pat joining her husband in a poignant conspiracy of silence and cover-ups. However, it didn't stop the determined and resourceful Pat from trawling the internet, reading books and searching for any means she could -- from vitamins to interactive video games -- to try halt the onslaught.

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