A HOSPITAL theatre manager praised her children for helping care for their dad with MS so she can continue her battle on the frontline.
Chris Bowes, who works at the Bon Secours Hospital in Cork, is feeling hopeful in the run-up to Mother’s Day on Sunday despite an emotionally taxing 12 months.
Her husband Mike is living with a progressive form of MS since shortly before they got married and now requires a wheelchair.
All five fought the profound challenges together as a family. While, much of this Sunday will be about celebrating frontline mums, Chris insists that she could not have done her job without the support of husband Mike. Her sons David (14), Christopher (15) and Alex (17) have also been extremely understanding.
“When the boys were growing up Mike always had my back,” Chris said.
“Without him, I wouldn’t be able to do the job I do. I didn’t have to worry about being at home at a certain time. When he was able and the kids were small, Mike was the one doing everything so that I could be at work.
“Mike was the one doing the bottle feeds and taking them for walks. He took the boys to toddler group. Mike was always cleaning and ironing their clothes. They were spoiled because he would heat up blankets on the radiators just to place over their knees in the morning. We are a partnership. That’s what a marriage is all about.”
The family was tested further in the third wave when Chris had to spend a number of weeks away from the family to protect Mike from Covid-19.
“Mike has essentially been cocooning the entire time. He hasn’t really gone out in case of contracting the virus. There were a few weeks in January that I had to spend in a hotel because of the dangers Covid-19 would have presented to Mike.
“That was difficult, but the boys were so understanding and great when it came to helping care for their dad. They helped their dad out with housework and let him rest when they knew he needed to.”
She stressed how proud she is of her three sons.
“I explained what a pandemic would mean for them from the start to make sure there was no miscommunication. Never once did they ask if they could go see their friends or complain about not being able to do the things they were once able to do. From a very early age, they realised that even though Mike is their dad, he needs care. They have learned a lot and I have no doubt their experiences will make them into better adults.”
Chris had always known that Mike was the one.
“Six months into our engagement, after he had been diagnosed with MS, he offered me a get-out clause,” she recalled.
“However, I knew my own mind. It was clear then that the illness was going to get worse going into the marriage, but MS was never going to change who Mike was as a person.
“He was frightened. Neither of us knew where we were heading into. My own mother gave us a lot of strength and Mike turned out to be a wonderful dad.”
She still remembers their wedding day like it was yesterday.
“We had our wedding at home so she converted the shed outside into a dance hall. We got married on a Friday and by the following Monday it was full of turkeys.”
The mum of three opened up about balancing her professional and family life.
“We’ve literally been going through this for one year. I have to stay motivated because as the leader of the nursing team, people look to me for motivation and support. Even though this has been difficult, it’s an honour to be part of it and I’ve always preferred to be active.
“When you see patients coming through who are so incredibly grateful because they didn’t think they would be able to get these surgeries it’s a great feeling.”
One of the high points of the theatre manager’s time on the frontline was being vaccinated.
“I had no idea how heavy the weight I was carrying around was until it was lifted off my shoulders. It was such a relief to be vaccinated.”
Chris is looking forward to having Mother’s Day as a day to bond with her children.
“I’m always conscious that young people are also going to need a lot of care coming out of this. They need to be listened to. Even though my own boys are now 6’2” they still need to be looked after.
“While they have been great through this whole ordeal I’m still always conscious that they worry in their own way.
“That’s why it’s nice to have this time together. I feel very lucky to have the weekends off so we have this time together.
“I really love doing the traditional things that mothers do so I’d say we’ll probably spend tomorrow sitting around a table eating a Sunday roast.”
She spoke of the important lessons they have learned as a result of the pandemic.
“We know that we don’t need to go to Saudi Arabia to enjoy the good weather during summertime. The pandemic has brought everyone back to a simpler way of life. People are starting to realise we don’t need all the trappings to be happy.
“Life can be cruel. It throws curveballs, but it rewards us too. We only have our children for a fleeting time before they grow up and leave home.
“That’s why you have to savour every moment.”