Me, MS and Fatherhood

This week to mark Father's Day, Fergal Hughes takes us on a personal journey of life with MS and Fatherhood.

My Dad

Love can't conquer the effects of a life-altering car crash but, looking back, my family didn't do too badly.

In 1991, my father was involved in what was later described in newspapers as 'the most severe road traffic accident of that Christmas holiday period'.

Immediately after the accident, Dad was rushed to Beaumont Hospital, where he had to undergo life-saving brain surgery.

I was 19 years old at the time and as you might imagine, I can still, even now, remember in great detail that night. To be with our father I with my brother, sister and mother were driven to Beaumont Hospital by our kind and concerned neighbours. 

My father was in a coma after the accident. We were told the recovery was to be a slow process.

Some months later when my father finally came out of the coma, we were so relieved. But over the following months and years, his recovery grew slower and it soon became apparent that he would never be able to stand up or walk again.

With years of physio and occupational therapy, Dad was back home in Galway and was even living with us again.

With money we'd been awarded from the accident, we were able to rebuild our home, making it wheelchair accessible, extending it to create more space for our Dad.

My mother was a nurse by profession. With what help we (her children) could give, half of our house effectively became a one-patient nursing home! Staff were hired and rostered, both professional nurses and non-professional (neighbours becoming nurses' aids!).

In terms of acquired disabilities, Dad had 1) extreme physical disability (especially on his right side) and 2) terrible short-term memory.

He also suffered frequent pain together with mood swings and he was totally dependent on the 24-hour nursing care for the rest of his life.

His long-term memory was pretty good so he still knew who we were..

When the pain was bearable, Dad chatted to us every day. I loved having a cup of tea with him, helping him take a sip every couple of minutes and listening to him reminisce about his youth.

I remember Father's Day gifts from then on mostly involved cards and the odd CD. The absence of practical presents was notable; no more umbrellas or wallets or the like.

In 1996 there was my own MS diagnosis. Although I've never told anyone, it absolutely devastated me that I was robbed of his reaction, his concern and maybe even of his humour around it (there's nothing like Dad humour to make everything seem 'not-that-bad').

Anyway, life pretty much remained like this for Dad for the rest of his life, my mother especially proving she to be an absolute saint.

We loved you Dad. I have nothing but fond memories, especially from before the accident. And I hope I did enough to help make your final years comfortable and maybe even sometimes, somehow enjoyable.

Fatherhood and Me

As a separated father, one who usually sees his sons every second weekend, this 'time of corona' has thrown quite the spanner in the works.

The actual day (i.e. Fathers Day) mercifully for me at least, always falls on a Sunday.

Some years, Fathers Day happens to fall on my weekend with my sons, some years it doesn't. But that's okay. My birthday is towards the end of June anyway, always after Fathers Day, so either weekend is good.

For safety reasons, I haven't actually seen my boys *in person* since the crisis started weeks and weeks ago.

Modern technology does help, e.g. video calls. And my sons are very tech savvy (like all teenagers are). My sons are in their middle teens and each has their own mobile phone, so that's good. Although, they're in their middle teens, so that's bad. :) Kidding... What I mean is: technology only works if *they* actually bother to check their phones or their e-mails every now and then. :D

On a related note, one of the things I do love about being a Dad is all the 'being-taken-for-granted' stuff. I'm serious! Who else is going to take me for granted?!

It shows me that they're so comfortable with the very fact of my existence, with my being a fixture in their lives, i.e. that they expect me to be there whenever *they* want me to be there. And you know, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Now that restrictions are being lowered, now that a local ice cream parlour is re-opening for weekends (!), I'm hoping to get back to actually spending time with them! Maybe take a selfie together, see how long our hair has grown!

P.S: Father's Day is Sunday, June 21st

P.P.S: Don't forget.  :)