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Dublin: 3 °C Wednesday 20 November, 2019
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'They brought the Liam MacCarthy to him in hospital': Former All-Ireland winner on the long road to recovery

Former patients were at Beaumont Hospital this week to thank the staff that cared for him.

IMG_3774 John Kelly with his daughter Maureen. Source: Sean Murray/TheJournal.ie

JOHN KELLY KNOWS a thing or two about hurling. He won the All-Ireland with Tipperary in 1971, wearing the number “3″ jersey.

He also knows a thing or two about the inside of a hospital ward.

The 69-year-old spent a year and a half in Beaumont Hospital after being diagnosed with a brain tumour.

He was returning home from a flight from the US when he became unwell. John was initially treated for pneumonia and a clot on his right lung, but further complications led to him being diagnosed with the tumour.

“I was brought to hospital in June 2015,” he told TheJournal.ie at a special event in the hospital earlier this week. “I was rushed in there in an emergency. I got out 533 days later.”

John underwent brain surgery at the hospital, and the position of the tumour resulted in impairment of his senses, damage to the nerves in his tongue causing speech impairment and problems with his ability to swallow.

“I’m actually very fortunate,” he said. “Most people can’t understand it but I am.”

Honour Your Heroes is an annual event that sees former patients return to the hospital to show their gratitude for the people who provided them with care and helped them to return to good health.

The former All-Ireland winning hurler was there to present an award to consultant anaesthetist John O’Rourke.

He went beyond the normal call of duty. He inspired me to have confidence and hope that someday I would get home… and I did.

Kelly wasn’t just full of praise for O’Rourke, he commended all the staff that tended to his care.

“They all helped to create a wonderful atmosphere for me, from ward manager Mary Heffernan right down,” he said.

It makes such a huge difference when you’re there to get that… For me now, it’s very important to say thanks.

Considering his sporting pedigree, talk soon turns to Tipperary’s ill-fated quest to retain the All-Ireland Hurling crown this year.

His daughter Maureen said that some members of the county board and the team arranged for the Liam McCarthy cup to be brought up to John last year.

“That was an emotional moment,” she said.

“That was great,” he said. “I was in hospital thinking I’d never go to Croke Park. And I love Croke Park.”

And as for next month’s final between Waterford and Galway?

I remember when they [Waterford] won it last time [in 1958]. I listened to it on the radio. I think I’d like to see them do it. But Galway will give them a great game.

“This is a new beginning”

Beaumont Honour Your Heroes 201702 Tiernan with Denise Andrews, and RTÉ's Anne Cassin at the Honour Your Heroes award earlier in the week. Source: Robbie Reynolds

Tiernan Dineen O’Sullivan is a typical 11-year-old. He loves football, he swims regularly and he does karate.

He lives and breathes the Liverpool football team. “Mo Salah is my favourite player,” he told TheJournal.ie. “I’m not worried about Coutinho leaving. He might be going or he might not. If we got someone in from Germany to replace him, I’d be happy.”

The young man loves Liverpool so much, his doctors thought he must be from there.

“But I’m not sure I’m from Mallow in Cork,” he said.

Tiernan has spina bifida hydrocephalus. He is a wheelchair user and also has scoliosis.

The excessive fluid on his brain caused by hydrocephalus has meant that he has required annual revisions to the shunts that drain this fluid.

His father Michael said that his son has been in for surgery again and again for these complications.

Tiernan had surgery at Beaumont Hospital earlier this year, and the very latest high-tech shunt was inserted. This shunt is a medical device that relieves pressure on the brain caused by the fluid accumulation linked to his condition.

“He’s like the bionic man,” his mother Lorraine said. “I am like the bionic man,” Tiernan repeated enthusiastically.

“We can adjust the shunt externally now, which is massive for us,” Michael said. “We didn’t have that option before.”

Lorraine added: “He’s had a lot of bad luck with them in the past, but this is a new beginning.”

Tiernan now receives outpatient care in Cork, but he and his family returned to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin this week to say a thank you to the staff who tended to him during his frequent visits.

Receiving an award from Tiernan on behalf of the staff at St Raphaels Ward was Denise Andrews.

She told TheJournal.ie it was such a nice thing for the team to see the family again.

Andrews said: “It’s fabulous. We have such a close team down there, and everybody works together to do it for the sake of the family and for the sake of the children.

We say goodbye at the door but we don’t see the impact on the children’s life when they go back to normal.

She described the hands-on approach taken by the ward to ensure that children and families can have as close to a normal life as possible.

“Tiernan was lucky because he was here during the school term,” she said. “They have breakfast in the morning and, if they’re well enough, they go down to the school room. If they’re not well enough, a teacher comes to them.”

The boy’s parents added that since had returned home following the surgery, they had crowdfunded to raise money to help build a room specifically designed to meet Tiernan’s needs in the family home.

“We applied for State help, but we got nothing,” Lorraine said. “We were just told we aren’t eligible.”

“I put a Facebook post out there,” Michael said. “And the response was incredible. I couldn’t believe the generosity of people.”

So far, they have raised over €40,000 to go towards building the room.

“I think we may go to Ikea on the way back to Cork to pick out a few things for the room,” Lorraine added.

Read: ‘When I was lost, I knew I didn’t want to die… Having a life is the most important thing now’

Read: ‘It’s more like a child’s scribble on a map’: Cork County Mayor furious at plans for city expansion

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About the author:

Sean Murray

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