Valerie Cox on husband Brian's illness ‘I always believed he was going to make it, that he was going to come home’

As heard on Today with Sean O'Rourke

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Valerie Cox, who spent eleven years reporting on the Today programme, spoke to Sean O’Rourke about her long battle to overcome her husband Brian’s encephalitis which left him in a coma with little hope of survival.  While Valerie told Sean that she never believed that Brian was going to die, the consultants did though.

In March of 2016, Valerie and her husband Brian travelled to Greece to work as volunteers with the refugees. While there, Brian became seriously ill, he was in a coma and airlifted to Athens. After two months in a hospital there, he was airlifted home to Ireland. Just two weeks ago, Valerie got her husband home.

Valerie told Sean that he had picked up a virus he got herpes viral encephalitis, which is the cold sore. Valerie said that he may have been carrying it anyway. But two people in a million have the virus hit their brain, for most they get a cold sore. For these two people in a million, the virus causes patients to go into a coma, and unfortunately 66% pass away immediately.

‘Nobody ever expected Brian to recover as he has done. When he was in the coma, they told me he might never wake’.

Having been airlifted home to Dublin, Valerie spoke of having a roster in the family, and how they got excited over the littlest of things, such as an eyebrow moving. A friend of Brian’s Fr. Stephen Monaghan was able to lip read and was able to work out that Brian was asking if he was dying, to which Valerie and her family told him that he was, but now he’s not.

 ‘I never believed that he was going to die, the consultants did’.

Brian has defied the odds, in that he has returned home after 18 months of care, Valerie told Sean that he is perfectly functional but there can be little blips, he’s reading, he’s writing, he’s moving around on a walker and his speech is perfect. Brian is now adding the finishing touches to a book he has written.

Valerie praised the work of those in Leopardstown Park, determined to get Brian a few weeks of Bootcamp in rehab to give him that boost, she says that they are the most extraordinary people she has ever met.

Valerie spoke of how lucky her family has been – crediting great friends, staff and those they had worked with in Greece.

‘We had half the Muslims praying for him, all the refugees; we had Atheists praying for him, we weren’t a bit fussy’.

Last October, consultants told me that Brian had reached his peak. They were totally wrong she said. Having been told that he was going to a nursing home last October, Valerie and her family were determined not to let that happen.

‘We’re a very strong very family and I knew that we’d work together. I mean, if we’d listened to the consultants, where would Brian be now?’

Valerie’s story is incredibly moving, a story of love, endurance and determination. Valerie spoke of how most of the consultants in the hospital would fight with her, but there were a few who were full of hope.

‘You need someone who believes in your patient’.

To listen back to the full interview on Today with Sean O’Rourke, click here.

© The Listener 2017

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