Tralee Life Life In An Irish Town


That Old Familiar Feeling

Sixteen months, sixteen good months but like all good runs they have to come to an end. So it was with Fred staying out of hospital. This week that run was broken and we ended back on the Cashel ward of Kerry General Hospital.

Monday had begun as most days do. Fred was getting over a stuffed nose but worryingly his coughing was coming from deep in his chest. “A soapy cough,” as Fred described it, explaining how it felt in his chest. Illness is always a concern with Fred as it seems to affect how he processes his medicines. The balance of how epilepsy medicines work or not work is tight, so much so that even a change in brand name can have disastrous consequences. Fred took up residence in front of the TV; keeping him in one place and out of danger is a priority.

Early afternoon and Lisa has gone to her course. Fred comes up to my office and we download the correct Transformers for him to watch. The two of us go back to the TV room where Fred has laid out two kitchen chairs like deckchairs. He gets under a blanket and I get the Transformers working on the laptop.

“How are you feeling?” I ask.

“Fine,” he answers through a chesty cough, like a lifetime smoker in denial.

Back upstairs I’m working when I hear a crash from downstairs. Trying not to be alarmed, it wasn’t a loud one, I go to the top of the stairs. Then that horrible noise that we know and dread breaks through the silence.

The little man is on the floor and when he’s gone through it I struggle to get him onto the couch. Fred opens his eyes and looks at me, though I doubt if he’s aware of what has happened. The two of us settle down and wait it out. Ruby comes home and a short while later so does Lisa. I get his medicines into him and swipe the VNS continuously. Another breaks through and we know a cluster is brewing. Fred has been 21 days seizure free which is great but dealing with clusters we had hoped may have been a thing of the past.

All is ok for a couple of hours but then three strike in the hour after six o’clock. Lisa gives him a shot of Diazepam and cuddles Fred to her, the two of us fearing the worst.  From 7pm to 9m Fred is in deep sleep. Stupidly I begin to believe the worst has passed. But four in 48 minutes expose how foolish was that thought. Though Lisa has also given Fred nurofen and Paracetamol he still has a temperature. There’s no escaping this one.

Recently I’d been deleting old contacts off my phone and when I was about to do so to the direct line for the Cashel ward, decided against so doing. The nurse that answered didn’t recognise my voice or my name, it had been a while. She asked me to hold when I repeated my surname and Freddie’s name. Another voice came on the line...



“No, no, no, no, no,” was all Marie could say, she knew why I was calling.

Nurse Marie, the one who’d gotten us through so many bad nights before, was on duty. It all sounded so familiar but also so reassuring. The nurse who’d answered was newish to the ward. A child had been admitted the previous day, also suffering from seizures. The new nurse was discussing the case but Marie had said it was nothing compared to Freddie Verling. An hour later I rang; when the nurse put me on hold she was asking Marie “what was the name of the kid you mentioned earlier? I think his father is on the line.” The benefit of a unique surname.

We got in. Marie bypassed the admissions paperwork and we went straight to the ward where a room had been prepared and the consultant called. In fact we met him at the door. Fred had a high temperature and the urgent blood tests came back with an infection. By midnight the temperature was coming down and Fred was settling in. He even woke up and was looking around him. The doctor had put a line in for the Lorazepam, all part of the Freddie protocol, as they know it on the Cashel ward. Two hours seizure free was good, Lisa sent me home to Ruby.

I was back in at 7am. The two were asleep and Marie gave me a rundown of the night. Thankfully they didn’t have to give the Lorazepam as Fred only had another two seizures. They’d started him on a strong antibiotic which had helped stabilise our boy and his temperature had dropped...

“Herself eventually went off to sleep at about half three, you know what she’s like, she wouldn’t go before that,” Marie gave me that knowing look as she spoke; the four of us had all been there before.

In true Freddie style he was dopey but right as rain when he woke. Lisa went home to freshen up and the doctors paid us a visit. They were waiting on the result of a chest x-ray and more blood tests. By 2pm we were given the all clear and sent home.

The man was out of sorts for the rest of the week. The diazepam really wrecks him and it was like going back a year with the way he was so dopey at times. His speech is affected and he just isn’t aware of what is going on around him. It can take up to a week for it to pass through his system, though yesterday and today he is much improved.

Friday was my birthday and Fred made me a lovely birthday card. I think the day meant more to him than to me. It was a lovely day and we even went out for a big lunch in our favourite cafe. Fred munched down his toasted ham, cheese and onion sandwich, keeping some for the trip home in the car.

Later I managed a swim in the ocean, followed by a great birthday dinner of Fred’s favourite, creamy, mushroom pasta. Afterwards Fred brought me over a plate of birthday cheesecake, with one candle lighting, singing ‘Happy Birthday’ as he walked.

“Make a wish Dad,” he said as I blew it out, looking at me with a big smile on his face.

The wish was made, the same one as last year.

I only have the one.


Posted by John Verling

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