Hughie and Rose Cosgrove

‘This is tearing our lives apart’

A Cavan woman says she feels “trapped” and afraid to leave home due to a worsening medical condition, which could see her collapse in pain at any moment.

The house Rose Cosgrove shares with her husband of almost 30 years, Hughie, is now “no longer suitable” for managing her deteriorating condition. Their quest to seek more appropriate and accessible accommodation is being hampered by the fact there is little or nothing available on the local rental market.

Rose suffers from chronic arthritis and around two years ago developed what was later found to be a Baker’s cyst. So severe is the swelling caused, that if too much weight is placed on her left leg, or Rose simply moves in the “wrong way”, her knee can become dislocated.

The last time Rose left home at the Castlemanor Retirement Village with husband Hughie, it required the help of two elderly neighbours and a passer-by to get Rose safely back to the house.

The pain is “excruciating” attests a tearful Rose, who requires urgent chiropractic assistance to put her knee right again each time it happens.

She lifts her clothing to show a spider-web of burst capillaries where the cyst has developed to the side of her knee. “I’ve been told it’s gone toxic, that’s why it’s swollen so bad,” says Rose. “It’s a constant burning pain, but I’ve been told I could be up to two years waiting to get an operation.”

It means that for much of the day, unless sitting on the sofa, Rose is wheelchair bound, reliant on husband Hughie “for everything”, including being brought to the bathroom.

The couple’s tenancy is currently subsidised by the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS), a local authority supplement for persons with long-term housing needs.

When Rose’s ailing condition was raised with the council, the couple say they were given the green-light to look elsewhere. The application was signalled with Cavan County Council’s Housing section at the start of summer - the only stipulation being that the next property must be two bedrooms in size. But like so many others, Rose and Hughie’s attempts to date have been thwarted by the continuing housing crisis in the county, with few such properties available locally.

A check on one property website on Friday last (October 15) and again on Monday (October 18) showed just three rentals in the Cavan Town area - two houses at over €1,100 per month each, and one one-bedroom apartment.

There were nine in total countywide, with the only two-bed an apartment in Gowna.

Rose wants so badly to live a “normal life”, getting upset again as she looks out the window at the clear blue sky on a chilly late autumn day. “I can’t even go make myself a cup to tea. If I fall, I need Hughie to be there for me. I want to get up and do stuff but the fear, the worry, the pain of it all, it’s bringing my mental health down,” says Rose, wiping the tears from her face.

The Cosgrove’s have two patio chairs outside the front of their house. “They’re rarely used,” says Hughie, who some days finds Rose “curled up in a ball”, racked with distress - “literally shaking”.

“I need my Rosie like I use to know her. I love her so much it breaks my heart to see her this way,” says Hughie.

Ideally, the couple would find a new house capable of incorporating a hoist, as well as hallways wide enough to comfortably accommodate the larger type wheelchair Rose now requires.

The couple previously lived at The Gallops, renting there for six years before the cost went up. They were then allocated a council house at Athbara, staying for two years, before changing address to Castlemanor. That was four years ago but, since then, Rose’s health has been in steep decline. Along with arthritis and the Baker’s Cyst, Rose has a cyst on her brain that causes “crippling” headaches, clots on her lungs, as well as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Furthermore, Rose has a sideways curvature of the spine, not detected until well into adulthood, which causes almost daily chronic back pain.

“We’ve been in the hospital so many times we could nearly find her way round it blindfolded,” remarks Hughie.

Without the use of a hoist, it’s left to Hughie to move Rose as carefully as possible by himself. The pressure, and stress of watching his wife, in his words “get sicker and sicker”, has impacted on his health too.

As much as Rose feels trapped by the current situation, so does Hughie, who has become “anxious” even running the simplest errand. “I’m constantly checking my phone just in case,” he says, patting his pocket. “I live in fear leaving the house in case something will happen.”

Only months back when Rose attempted to use her walker to go to the bathroom her knee gave way and she fell. Struggle as she might, she could not lift herself back off the floor. It was several hours before Hughie returned to find his wife lying helpless.

It moves Hughie to see his wife so upset. “She wants nothing more than to live a normal life, to feel the joy of life. But right now, I don’t think she can.”

The couple are very religious and their spotless Castlemanor home is peppered with sacred trinkets, pictures of the Virgin Mother and Baby Jesus. On the hearth of the fireplace rests three framed photographs from the Rose and Hughie’s wedding. “Taken in better times,” Hughie says.

“We pray as often as we can,” adds an emotional Rose. “Every day I beg Our Lord to help us. We’re in a bad place. All we’re looking for is his help. This is tearing our lives apart.”

Cavan County Council was contacted for comment.