Sunday 15 September 2019

Fr. Sean to say his Gambian farewells


Anne Marie 0'CONNOR

MISSIONARY CLERIC, Fr. Sean Devereux will return to the Gambia this summer, but only to bid farewell to the friends he has made over the last decade.

Six weeks ago the Tacumshane born cleric was left fighting for his life in Beaumont hospital after being airlifted from his African home having succumbed to virulent malaria.

The recovery of Fr. Sean, who needed dialysis as his kidneys and liver failed with the disease, borders on miraculous, and he acknowledges the very ' near miss' he had.

It was only through the help of his fellow Wexford priest, Fr. Tom Dalton, who was visiting him in the Gambia when he fell ill, and his UK based brother, Kieran, that his life was saved.

'I had malaria before. But it was nothing like this. The other times it was just like having the flu'.

This time the parasite lodged in my liver and kidneys,' he said, adding that his red blood cells imploded causing further difficulties.

'Between them, Fr. Tom and my brother Kieran arranged an air ambulance and got me home,' he said.

Fr. Devereux was

initially brought to Dakar in Senegal for treatment where he was stabilised before being flown home to Dublin.

While he arrived home in critical condition, he rapidly began to improve under the care of the Dublin medical teams. 'I made a rapid recovery, and it's been the same since I came home. I feel like I'm back to full strength,' he said.

However, he acknowledged that the malaria attacked a lot of his muscle mass, which he now needs to slowly repair.

While Fr. Sean plans to return to the Gambia in June, he says his missionary days are behind him – at least for now.

'I had planned to come back home next May and spend time working in the Diocese anyway. Eleven years is a long time,' he said.

His recouperation at the home of his parents, Nick and Phyllis in Tacumshane, has just brought his plans forward a little.

He does, however, plan to go back to the Gambia in June to tie up loose ends and say goodbye to the many friends he made over the last decade.

Based in Bakoteh, in the the township of Serrekunda, Fr. Sean worked on a variety of projects which ranged from media and radio, to development work, and providing medical and educational aid. He was first drawn to the Gambia after visiting his fathers first cousin, Sr. Philomena Barry in the missions in the late 1990s.

His time spent in the Gambia was one which he describes as ' very enjoyable' and a ' very valuable personal experience'. 'It has given me a whole different perspective on life.'

He says, however, that he is equally prepared for the challenge of returning to parish life in County Wexford. 'My committment has always been to Ferns and I'm excited to be coming back to do parish duties here.' The exact time-frame for when he will take up parish duties has yet to be decided.

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