Eleanor Sheehan obituary: Brave, positive and stoical woman

‘Pure joy and innocent love’ brought out the best in others

Eleanor Sheehan never complained about the pain and suffering she endured through spinal operations as a child and respiratory illnesses as an adult.

Eleanor Sheehan never complained about the pain and suffering she endured through spinal operations as a child and respiratory illnesses as an adult.

 

This article is one of a series about people who have died with coronavirus in Ireland and among the diaspora. Read more at irishtimes.com/covid-19-lives-lost. If you would like a friend or family member included in the series, please email liveslost@irishtimes.com

Eleanor Sheehan

1979-2020

A brave, positive and stoical woman with a great sense of humour, Eleanor Sheehan was the centre of her family’s lives and brought out the best in everyone.

Eleanor was born to Andrew and Ann Sheehan in Tallaght in August 1979. The youngest of four children, she was born with mental and physical disabilities and used a wheelchair from the age of 10. However, despite her disabilities and ill health, Eleanor always had a mischievous sense of humour with a glint of devilment in her eyes. She had uncanny comic timing and was able to reduce her family to tears of laughter with a well-timed insult.

As a child she loved swimming in the sea and later enjoyed long drives to Bray and Greystones every weekend. She took part in the Special Olympics in Dublin in 2003 and lived with her parents until recently when she was moved to St John of God’s in Islandbridge where she was cared for by dedicated staff and came to be loved by her fellow residents.

“She seemed to bring out the best in everyone,” says her older sister Orla. “It was impossible to hold on to any cynicism in her presence when confronted with such pure joy and innocent love.”

Eleanor never complained about the pain and suffering she endured through multiple spinal operations as a child and innumerable respiratory illnesses as an adult. “She was extraordinarily brave; she was a very special person and the world could learn from her.”

Last summer, Eleanor celebrated her 40th birthday surrounded by family. “She was beaming for hours, she loved being the centre of attention,” says Orla.

She loved music and listened to Abba and the Carpenters on loop from an early age. Whenever she spent time in hospital her family would bring in a stereo so she could continue listening through her recovery. “We even managed to get it into St James’s when she was diagnosed with Covid,” says Orla. “The nurses in the ward knew her, they had treated her before. They knew she needed the comfort of her family around her so allowed us to bring in the music.”

Eleanor became ill on April 2nd and was brought to hospital the following day. She had been hospitalised for pneumonia two years ago but her health had been good since then. With tight restrictions in place, her family could initially only communicate with Eleanor via FaceTime calls. She was in good spirits for the first few days, laughing and joking, but when her condition deteriorated her sister Louise was allowed to visit wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). Eleanor’s parents, who are in their 70s, were not able to visit the hospital because of their age.

“The visits to the room, brief, in full PPE and in couples only, offered some comfort to us and hopefully to Eleanor too,” says Orla. “Whilst she was visibly fading the love was still there in her eyes.”

Eleanor died on Good Friday, April 10th, aged 40.

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