Former Magherafelt business man steps out in memory of his wife

Brian Tohill and his late wife Mary on holiday in South Africa
Brian Tohill and his late wife Mary on holiday in South Africa

A former chairman of Magherafelt Traders’ Association, Brian Tohill is taking part in Belfast Memory Walk next month in memory of his wife Mary who had dementia.

Mary was 72-years-old when she was diagnosed with dementia and passed away nearly three years later.

Brian Tohill and his late wife Mary on their wedding day

Brian Tohill and his late wife Mary on their wedding day

Brian, who ran a butcher’s shop in the south Derry town for more than 30 years, said it first became clear there was something wrong with Mary when they were in South Africa, in April 2010, celebrating their golden wedding anniversary and she became distressed and confused about where they were.

He said: “We were in South Africa in 2010 for our 50th Wedding anniversary when I realised something was very wrong. The second or third morning of the holiday Mary came into the living room really distressed. She didn’t understand why we were here or how we got here.

“I suppose I should have seen the early signs and realised; she had stopped shopping, stopped driving and she always was an early riser but she started to sleep a lot more.

“I went to the GP with my concerns and he told me to bring Mary in to see him. He referred her to the memory clinic and the first question that was asked was what day is this and Mary turned to me to ask because she didn’t know.

“I kept Mary at home with me for the first two years after she was diagnosed. Unfortunately we lived in a house with stairs, but social services were a great help and helped me set up a room for her downstairs. They even provided a hospital bed for Mary at home.

“Dehydration became a big problem for Mary because she would forget to drink or would refuse drinks I offered her so spent some time in and out of hospital.

“I was waiting on knee surgery and on one of Mary’s stays in hospital the doctor noticed me limping and said he thought the strain of being her carer was too much for me with my knee problems and would recommend Mary go into a nursing home. “Mary went to stay at Magherafelt Manor and received excellent care. My son and I would take her out on day trips.’

“Mary’s physical condition seemed to deteriorate much quicker than her mental condition and she passed away nearly 3 years after being diagnosed. If she had lived one more month we would have been married 53 years.’

“I am taking part in Belfast Memory Walk in memory of my wife but also to raise money to help other people with dementia. In the nursing home Mary was in there were other people, who I actually knew, with dementia - and they are still there. I want to raise money to help as much as I can.’

To find out more about the Belfast Memory Walk being held in Stormont estate on Saturday, September 17, please visit www.memorywalk.org.uk/INSERT WEB PAGE FOR WALK and sign up today to walk for a world without dementia. Registration needs to be done online ahead of the walk.