Caitríona Hastings' Story

Caitríona Hastings

I’m Caitríona Hastings, I’m living here in Killiney now. My own job - I was a lecturer in Irish studies and heritage studies. My husband was ordained to the Church of Ireland 25 years ago this year and when he was ordained first we moved to the west and we’ve been going around the west ever since.

Well, I knew myself something was wrong. I was limping and pulling my left foot and then my foot became very weak and it was tripping me up. Now the GP said ‘Oh you just have a drop foot and you’ll just have to sort it out and get on with your business’ and I said, Would we not be better to find out what’s causing the drop foot? So eventually I got her to refer me to a neurologist and when he told me that I had Motor Neurone Disease literally a bomb went off in my head. And in my head this tape was playing, saying you’ve got Motor Neurone Disease, you’ve got Motor … and you have to tell poor Gary and the children.

So when I got home I went into the house and then he came in and looked at my face and he said ‘What’s going on here?’ and I said, I’m afraid I haven’t got too good news, so I told him anyway.

We didn’t tell the children for a few days until we got our head round it and then poor Caitlín was in London and we had to tell her, and she’s done neuroscience and stuff like that, and she knows exactly what this is. Poor Conn was up in Kinvara and he almost had a heart attack I think, but do you know what, after about three weeks or so we all got our head around it and at one level inside me I was relieved, because I actually thought I was losing my mind. The Motor Neurone Association have a nurse who comes to give you a hand, and then one day I was saying to her, I was thinking it would be good for me to get out of the house one day a week as a respite for me, and a respite also for my husband who’s my main carer, so that for one day in the week he wouldn’t have to be responsible for Caitríona. So she said, ‘Oh do you know the hospice in Blackrock they do a day hospice?’ And I’d never heard tell of day hospice but she explained it a little bit and it sounded like a great idea so she contacted them and they explained how we would apply. Then I went for assessment and then they said they would give me a place for 12 weeks. So I go every Wednesday for 12 consecutive weeks and that’s been just brilliant.

Dermot Battigan

My name is Dermot Battigan and I am a volunteer driver at the Blackrock Hospice. I’ve been working at the Blackrock Hospice for almost six years now. Well I was recently retired and I had some free time on my hands and this seemed a worthwhile project to get involved in and I’m happy to help out any way I can.

Caitriona

I was feeling a little bit anxious and I was saying things to Gary like, how will I manage at lunchtime and how will I manage to get to the bathroom. He was saying things like, ‘But sure it’s a hospice, they’ll look after you, they know that you can’t manage’, but I was still feeling a wee bit anxious.

Dermot

Tuesday is my normal day for volunteering but on occasion I might help out on a Wednesday or Thursday if I am free. I would pick them up at their home around 10:30 in the morning and it can be a little bit different for people I meet for the very first time. They can be apprehensive when they are coming to the hospice, the hospice has a connotation attached to it and people are a bit nervous about it.

Caitriona

He was reassuring me, he knew all about it and how it works and he’d been looking after lots of people and he knew that I might be anxious and he was explaining to me a little bit how the day would work.

Dermot

Well I generally describe the people they are going to meet rather than the institution itself because the institution, I think the name maybe has a fear factor attached to it for some people but if I explain to them that they are going to meet Andrea at the reception and Marcin, the security guy, it puts them at their ease somewhat.

Caitriona

Palliative care can change the quality of your life with a life-limiting illness because when you go for palliative care it is tailored to your needs at any particular time. And the word palliative, I found out, comes from the Latin word for a cloak and so palliative means this cloak is wrapped around you to embrace you as you are, not to make you better, not to worry about you, just to say, here’s Caitríona, or here’s whoever, and this is how you are today, and can we give you a hand here? Ah that’s amazing!