‘I don’t think I will see another Christmas, I hope I’m wrong’: Charlie Bird opens up about his MND

‘I don’t think I will see another Christmas, I hope I’m wrong’: Charlie Bird opens up about his MND

Charlie Bird: 'I’ve great friends, I’ve a great family and a beautiful wife, five grandkids, two beautiful daughters - everybody in this country who has contacted me has kept me going.' Picture: The Late Late Show/RTÉ

Broadcast veteran Charlie Bird has opened up about his battle with motor neurone disease (MND) in an emotional interview, admitting he feels he will not live to see another Christmas.

“I don’t know when this whole thing is going to cave in on me but I’ll be honest, if I was a betting person, I don’t think I’ll see another Christmas. I hope I am proven wrong, but that’s my feeling,” the former RTÉ journalist told Ryan Tubridy on  The Late Late Show.

Since receiving his terminal diagnosis, Mr Bird has said he’s struggled to come to terms with it.

“I’m so-so, not great, but I am alive and still here, and that’s what’s important.

“Every day is the same for me, I make no bones about this — I cry every day because of what happened to me.

“It’s not just my voice, every time I sit down to eat I’m struggling. Thankfully I can still walk, but other people with motor neurons can’t walk, I still can.” 

When I wake-up in the morning and I’m lying in my bed, I think for one moment maybe this is all a dream. Then when I talk to Claire, or Tiger the dog, I realise I’m living this nightmare.

When asked what in particular makes him cry, Mr Bird said it was “the slightest things.” 

 “I was watching the All Blacks and Ireland play recently and I heard Ireland’s call, I started crying, because I thought maybe this is the last time I’ll hear or see that happening.” 

‘I am lifted by the support’ 

As for now, Mr Bird said the outpouring of support he has received from family, friends, and people all over the country is what has kept him going.

“I’ve great friends, I’ve a great family and a beautiful wife, five grandkids, two beautiful daughters — everybody in this country who has contacted me has kept me going. I get uplifted by the feelings, letters, texts and emails.

“In 2004, I did a story about Cian O’Connor, the man has an Olympic gold medal, and he probably wouldn’t have been happy with my coverage of that story.

“One of the first letters I received was from Cian O’Connor, a lovely letter, inviting me down to his yard to see his horses. In a way, that encompasses everything that I’ve been receiving.

“I receive letters every day from all over the country, I have people praying for me, mass cards, candles, and I am blown away from that support. It lifts me and yet, I will be blunt about it — I cried today a couple of times, but equally I am lifted by the support,” he said.

Speaking about his diagnosis, Mr Bird said he knew he had MND before he was officially diagnosed with the terminal illness.

“In my head, I believed I had motor neurons, and the reason I believed it was because of my close friend Colm Murray.

I used to visit Colm in his final weeks and months, it suddenly hit me — 'Charlie, could you be going down the same road?'

“I tried to hide from it for months. I hid from my neighbours, I hid from my friends, I knew something was happening. Eventually, I got the diagnosis, but in my head and my heart I knew it,” he said.

It wasn’t until one of Charlie’s consultations with Dr Orla Hardiman that everything he believed and feared had come true.

“She was writing on a piece of paper and she said, ‘don’t you read that,’ and my curiosity, I read it and it said ‘Charlie Bird has a terminal illness.’” After seeing that, Mr Bird said he and his wife Claire, went home crying together.

Claire added: “When we spoke to Orla Hardiman, she said you’re going to lose your speech, your swallow, and you’re probably going to die of respiratory [issues].

“Charlie asked ‘how long?’, to which she said two to three years, and we left and cried all the way home.

“I googled what she said he had and I cried all night, then the next morning I said we’d better get up and take control of what’s happening,” she said.

Future plans and meeting Vicky Phelan

Talking about future plans, Charlie admitted he is fearful of what’s to come but is determined to battle this illness to the end.

“I’m fearful. I know we’re all going to die, but I’ve been told one to three years, some people live beyond that. I’ve lost so much weight in the last few weeks, I probably won’t have my voice in three or four months' time.

“I don’t want to offend anyone — I’ve said it to my family — I don’t want to end up in a wheelchair. I don’t, but I know wherever it is written in the stars, I have to deal with this and at the moment I am coming out fighting.

“I walk every day to prove to myself that I can still walk."

I jokingly have told my mates that I have one wish, and it’s to climb Croagh Patrick, to prove to myself that I can still do it, but equally I want whatever time I have left to help other people as well.

Recently, Mr Bird shared a Twitter exchange with cervical cancer campaigner, Vicky Phelan, who  he plans to meet on Monday for coffee and scones.

“In relation to [assisted] suicide, whatever I decide in the future, I believe all of us, if we see somebody who is in a dark place, we should put out arms around them and don’t hide from it.

“I haven’t worked out where I’m going to end and how. I want to meet Vicky and talk about lots of things, but eventually I will have to make up my own mind about where and how I end up.

“I’m struggling with it, I’m struggling with that question in my own head. I think about it a lot.

“I love my friends and I want to spend as much time with them, I want to see my five grandkids grow up. I want my two daughters to be with me for as long as possible but I know I’m in a fight, I’m doing my best to deal with all of these issues as strongly as I can.”

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