Cork family support wonderful work of Night Nurses in memory of Ted

Last Christmas was Ted Kelleher’s final one with his family. His last days at home were made comfortable by the wonderful work of the Irish Cancer Society’s Night Nurses, writes COLETTE SHERIDAN
Cork family support wonderful work of Night Nurses in memory of Ted

Ted Kelleher and wife Juliana. Ted passed away earlier this year and was cared for at home by his family and the Irish Cancer Society Night Nurse service.

THERE will be an empty place at the Kellehers’ Christmas dinner table this year in Clondrohid, but the family has lots of good memories of Ted, who passed away from cancer on January 5 at the age of 80.

As Ted’s daughter-in-law, Gobnait Kelleher, says: “Last Christmas was Ted’s last good day.

“He came to our house and ate a full Christmas dinner and enjoyed the day. We took lovely photographs, we exchanged presents. We were creating memories.”

Gobnait and her husband Matthew Kelleher live next door to Ted’s widow, Juliana. The festive meal last year was also attended by Gobnait and Matthew’s two children, Liadh-Ann and Gary.

Even though Ted was unwell, he had a good day, surrounded by his close-knit family.

The family has been fund-raising for the Irish Cancer Society’s night nurse service which Ted availed of, allowing him to spend his last days at home, pain-free, with medication administered to him, overseen by Marymount Hospice.

The Kellehers can’t praise the service enough, saying that nurse Rebecca Ní Mhurchú was at Ted’s side for five nights until he died, looking after him and including the family so that they all felt involved in his care.

Ted, who was a farmer, was diagnosed with lymphoma in April, 2021.

“It took a long time to find out what was wrong with him,” says Gobnait. “He had been treated for pneumonia and pleurisy before they found the cancer. It was during covid so it was difficult. We weren’t able to go in the hospital to visit.

“He came out of hospital on a Friday and had to go back on the Monday because he got very sick. 

"It was really hard. He was pining away out of poor loneliness and not eating. Eventually, the hospital allowed one member of the family to come in every day for an hour to feed him.”

The Kelleher family.
The Kelleher family.

When Ted eventually came home, he had to go in and out of hospital for his chemotherapy treatment.

“But unfortunately, once the treatment stopped, the cancer took off again. Ted finished his chemo in September/October, 2021. We knew in November that he was starting to go downhill. He went for a PEN scan and he was due to see his consultant on January 5, which, ironically, was the day he died.”

The consultant advised the family to keep Ted at home. Otherwise, with Covid, they wouldn’t have been able to see him anymore if he was in hospital.

“One of Ted’s nieces works in the health service. She knew all about the Irish Cancer Society’s daffodil nurses and the home care package and set it up. She was just amazing.”

Nurse Rebecca started to stay with Ted from New Year’s Eve.

“We thought everything was grand but Ted’s niece could see that he was declining quickly. Rebecca was amazing; so kind and gentle. It was palliative care at that stage and she worked alongside Marymount who checked on him every day. Anything Rebecca did to Ted, she involved him. She would whisper to him that she was going to turn him. She never did anything without telling him.”

The first night that Rebecca was there, the family insisted on staying up with her and Ted. But after that, she advised the family to get some rest “as this could drag on and you’re going to be exhausted. She assured us she’d call us if necessary.

“There was always one person from the family with Rebecca. They were tough nights. Juliana, who’s in her 80s, could get up at any hour of the morning to see Ted. Rebecca was very nice to her and explained what stage he was at. She might sit and pray with her or just let her be.

“She prepared every one of us. Ted was in no pain (but he was unable to speak.)”

Ted loved his ‘cattle dogs’.

“One of his dogs, Jess, was having pups and Ted was so proud of her. The dog never really came into the house. But for the last two days before Ted died, Jess started coming into the house and going under Ted’s bed. We used to lift her up and put her on the bed beside Ted. We didn’t know if he knew she was there or not. We had to put Jess out when she was having the puppies, the night before Ted died.”

Jess, clearly an intuitive dog, had five puppies, all of which are being kept in the Kelleher family that is made up of Ted’s daughters, Jackie, Margaret and Catherine; his son, Matthew, sons-in-law Connie, Michel and John, and daughter-in-law, Gobnait. As well as Liadh-Ann and Gary, the other grandchildren are Lisa, Ciara, Mikey, David and Jason. One of the puppies is called Teddy and he is staying with Juliana. There is something touching about such continuity. (Also, Matthew now runs the family farm.)

After Ted’s passing, his family decided to organise an event to raise funds for the Irish Cancer Society’s night nursing service. Ted loved set dancing and singing so the night included music and a céilí. It took place on November 19 at the Abbey Hotel in Baile Mhúirne, where Ted regularly attended céilís. More than €10,000 was raised.

“We decided we wanted to give something back,” says Jackie. “We never knew before that the night nursing service was there or how much night nurses do. As my nephew Gary said, Rebecca is an amazing person whose job goes unnoticed and we wanted an event to highlight the amazing work she does and the amazing work all night nurses do.” Tonight and every night, including Christmas, the Irish Cancer Society’s night nurses will be in homes across Ireland supporting families to fulfil their loved one’s wish to die at home.

“Our night nursing service is available so that your loved ones, including children, can receive expert nursing care, practical support and reassurance in their own home at the end of their life,” says a spokesperson for the Irish Cancer Society.

“When our night nurses come to your home, they use all their skills, training and experience to keep your loved one as comfortable and pain free as possible.

“The night nurse will care for your loved one during the night from 11pm to 7am and will be happy to accommodate family wishes and preferences. Night nursing support is available for up to ten nights (subject to night nurse availability) of care and at no cost to the patient or family. All the night nurses are Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland registered, reference checked and Garda vetted.”

None of the vital services provided by the Iris Cancer Society would be possible without the generous support of the Irish public. Typically, the Irish Cancer Society receives only 3% of its funding from the Government. Therefore, it relies heavily on voluntary donations to run the night nursing service.

If you or a loved one needs support over the festive period (or at any time), contact the Irish Cancer Society’s Freephone support line on 1800 200 700 or email supportline@cancer.ie.

Donations can be made by visiting the society’s online shop at cancer.ie/Christmas.

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