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Fr Harry Bohan. Photograph by John Kelly

Fr Harry’s brush with death

ONE of Clare’s best-known clerics, Fr Harry Bohan, could have died from a blood clot last year, he revealed this week.

The Sixmilebridge parish priest was rushed to St James’s Hospital, Dublin suffering from life-threatening blood clots during the August Bank Holiday weekend last year.

The lead consultant surgeon wanted to carry out an emergency aneurysm operation but was forced to delay it because all the necessary back-up team weren’t available at the time.

Kept under close observation, Fr Bohan was transferred to a ward straight across from the nurses’ station because staff were worried about his condition.

A few days later, when the full team became available, a 10-hour operation was completed to get his blood flowing properly again.

This week, Fr Bohan said the consultant confirmed he could have died from a blood clot before the operation.

Having been hospitalised five times over a 12-month period, the 75-year-old priest appreciated the great care he received in a number of hospitals but he still hasn’t the benefit of full power in his right leg.

After being discharged from St James’s he would have been forced to return for treatment but for the intervention of nurse Orla O’Donnell, who came to his house every day.

The risk of having an aneurysm was first detected in 2009 and he was informed an operation was inevitable. He needed a seven-hour operation in the University Hospital Limerick on New Year’s Eve in 2011 and required further major treatment there on January 3, 2012.

In June 2011 he had a colonoscopy in Cahercalla Community Hospital, where consultant oncologist, Heather Holloway told him he had cancer but he wasn’t surprised.

“It was a tumour in the bowel. I had no real pain. The cancer was the easiest part. The tumour was removed and I had a colostomy bag for four months,” he said.

Having spent long periods in hospital, he recalled that knowing so many people were praying for him played a major part in his recovery.

In an ironic twist, he regards his sickness as a type of blessing as he finds it easier to deal with cancer patients with the benefit of his own personal experience.

“The most important thing to do is to listen. You meet so many peole who are depressed and isolated. The most important for any patient is to be able to cope with sickness and cancer. I have a different relationship with patients now because I had it myself,” he said.

When a person gets a terminal illness, he builds up a strong bond with the family over seven or eight visits, before the funeral and continues that relationship afterwards.

“I tend to get consumed with the relatives of people who are dying. I have never got used to standing at a person’s bed when the family are keeping vigil at a critical time for their last few hours or minutes. I go away in another world,” he said.

Dan Danaher

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