Maebh O’ Herlihy

Hi, I’m Maeve O’ Herlihy. I am here on Achill Island, a wonderful place to be. I was born in Dublin and went to school there. When my children were very small we moved to Brussels. My dream from a very young age was to live here on Achill, and so I moved here permanently in 2000. Having retired as a therapist, I followed another childhood dream. I returned to college where I was ordained as a priest in the Church of Ireland. I have been given the real gift of being appointed to be the local minister here on the island. As can often happen in life, a not so good event followed as I was diagnosed with motor neuron disease in December 2021. A GP spotted that my speech had gone a bit blurry and instantly referred me to the neurology consultant. After 3 days I got the full diagnosis that I did have motor neuron. Almost immediately I was put in touch with the speech therapist in Castlebar, she advised me straight away to sign myself into the Irish MND Association, which I did, and which was the greatest gift I could have asked for. Barbara then talked to me through all of the possibilities there were to save my voice. The one we went for, and which I am using here now is speak unique. My next wonderful gift was a first visit from Fidelma, the MND nurse. Fidelma has given me amazing support with her visits, her referrals, her constant link of all the people supporting my treatment- the dietitian, the Galway neurology team and many others. The social issues I have had to deal with have obviously increased as the disease progresses. Only being able to eat through the peg feed has meant not being able to meet up for meals with my friends like I used to enjoy so much. It is awkward for me and somewhat stressful for them to have me sit at a table eating nothing while they are trying to enjoy their food. The physical issues have really only begun to have a more serious effect in recent months, some are causing big changes to my everyday life. I only walk with the roll aider at present because my walking has become very plodding now, I am beginning to lose the strength in my legs and that has meant I can no longer drive. This has been a difficult issue to accept.

Particularly for Maebh, who’s living on a remote island in the west of Ireland, we now can say that we have access to the services that we require. Her wish is that she can remain at home for as long as possible and we want to be able to ensure that that happens, that she can stay at home throughout this illness.

I am very blessed with all those supporting me. My dear friend Angela has taken me from her job to move in here and care for me. My family are taking it in turns to come over from Brussels to visit and to allow Angela time off to go home to her own family. My parishioners have been and are very supportive, they are looking after the church and the parish whole, they increasingly help with the services as the MND progresses. Recently, they gave me a wonderful surprise by gifting me with an amazing little artistic book. The book was created by two of the parishioners. I am getting wonderful care from Fidelma and the Irish MND Association who are always behind me and respond instantly to any needs. The daycare team at Mayo Hospice look out for me every time I am there. The palliative care nurses from the hospice visit me every two or three weeks to check on me. I feel so grateful to all of them because their care is wonderful. There are a few things I think people need to know about palliative care. The first is getting past the fear that people can hold as soon as there is a mention of palliative care or hospice. You are not about to die, on the contrary, you may be being offered care and support which can in fact greatly help to keep you strong longer and mentally able to deal with your disease better. Thankfully, the more palliative care can be talked about the better. I would suggest this about palliative care and local hospice day care opportunities be left in the local health centers and surgeries.

She’s a remarkable lady that actually has taken everything on board and accepted it. I’m blown away by her everyday how she manages.