Karen Lavery

My name is Karen Lavery, and I live in the North in Co. Armagh in a place called Aghalee. My uncle Seán was a seaman for many years, and he left home when he was 16 and a neighbour brought him down to Belfast to get on a boat to head to sea. He was literally around the world from one boat to another, he was a sea merchant and he worked himself up from basically being a waiter to working in kitchens as a chef. He took unwell one of the Sundays that I was with him so I phoned the ambulance. The next day when I arrived at the hospital, they said there’s nothing we can do for your uncle, he has been diagnosed with lung cancer, and we think the best place for him would be St. Joseph’s Hospice in Hackney where he’ll get proper care. It was lovely, he got a room of his own and he was all impressed, thinking this is lovely, a nice big TV in front of him and shower room and all the rest of it, it looked great and the people were very friendly. It turned out that when I went to see this lady that was like a coordinator and she said yes, I think your uncle can go home. It turned out that we were able to organize a private ambulance from Hackney to Wales. Then I organized another ambulance from the North, they picked us up in Wales and brought us to the boat to Dublin. When I came home then I was worried about the dogs because I’ve got six dogs in the house and I thought oh my god, they will torture him. But he got used to the dogs and one dog in particular, he just was never away from his side. It was as if she knew and I was able to get him up and get him pushed in to the table to have breakfast and he decided he wanted porridge and then he wanted to have bacon and egg and you know he just turned around, he was like a different person. But then we got carers in and that was great too and then I introduced him to social media. That was another side to happiness that he just loved. Whenever friends came down to see him, I did a video with them and put it on Facebook and then my friend Breege who’s a barber, she came down to do his hair one Sunday and when it got to the stage that he couldn’t use his walkie we got him an electric wheelchair, we had such a ball, we went around a three mile radius around here, around by the lock. Nicola, who was his OT, she was super with him. She had said that, you know, your legs, your legs stiffen up and what not and you know what’s good, a bicycle, you could sit there in the chair and you could use a bicycle and it would help strengthen them muscles because he really wanted to walk again, he really wanted to be well again because he was feeling so well up here. We love music, which is great. I love country music. He loved it too, so I got Alexa set up and we sat singing all day long the music was never off. The night he died, we did have a Marie Curie sitter. She came and knocked on the door and said you better come down and Uncle Seán, he was just about there no more you know, so like it was three o’clock in the morning then. You know, in a way, I was glad that he was at peace then. My uncle just couldn’t believe the care and attention that he got here especially from the palliative care team. He just couldn’t believe how much they went out of their way to help him be more mobile, enjoy his last weeks. He had a load of change and he gave one of the girls this change to give to the youngsters to get ice cream, like he was a giver too, just to let them know that he appreciated their help. He was just a gentleman you know, anybody who met him he touched their lives. You know, they just couldn’t believe what a lovely, lovely man he was and he was. He has a lifetime friend that lives a couple of miles up the road and I had phoned her and you know she was oh my god I can’t believe that your uncle Seán all the years on a boat and now he is coming home by boat, you know he travelled the world by boat and now he’s coming home by boat.