Charlie Bird does not believe he will ‘see another Christmas’

Retired broadcaster discusses motor neuron disease diagnosis on the Late Late Show

Charlie Bird said he does not believe he will "see another Christmas" as he discussed his diagnosis of motor neuron disease on Friday night.

The retired RTÉ reporter said he has been told he has between one and three years left to live and that he does not expect to be able to speak in three or four months' time.

His voice sounding markedly differently, the 72-year-old told the Late Late Show that he cries every day because of his diagnosis and that the slightest thing makes him emotional.

"Hearing Ireland's Call made me cry because it's maybe the last time I'm going to hear that," Mr Bird told host Ryan Tubridy during an emotional interview.

He said there are “thousands” of people facing similar challenges to him and that it is his “final wish” that the country looks after people who are dealing with illness.

Mr Bird said he is lucky that he has great friends and great family, including his wife Claire Bird who appeared with him on the show. He is also still able to walk unaided and plans to climb Croagh Patrick.

“They say one to three years,” Mr Bird said. “I’ve lost so much weight in the last few weeks. I probably won’t have my voice in three or four months’ time.”

He said he struggles to eat and sometimes wakes up in the morning and forgets for a moment that he is “living this nightmare”.

Asked about how he will face the end of his life, Mr Bird says he struggles with the issue and that he will “have to make up my own mind about where and how I end up”.

Mr Bird said he has told his family that he does not what to end up in a wheelchair. On Monday, he is due to meet up with terminally ill cervical cancer campaigner Vicky Phelan, who he said he admires greatly.

He said he does not think he will see another Christmas but that he hopes he is proven wrong so he can spend more time with his five grandchildren and two daughters.

Support

Mr Bird spoke about the massive outpouring of support he had received to date from Irish people. This included from Olympic showjumper Cian O’Connor. Mr Bird said he did a report on Mr O’Connor in 2004 which Mr O’Connor “probably wouldn’t have been too happy with”.

However, one of the first letters he received on announcing his illness was from Mr O’Connor, inviting him down to see his horses.

The show heard from Mr Bird’s former RTÉ News colleagues who paid tribute to the reporter’s tenacity and “the fire in his eyes”.

Stardust fire survivor and campaigner Antoinette Keegan praised Mr Bird for his reporting on the tragedy. "You have our support and we'll always be there for you Charlie," she said.

Mr Bird spoke of his work with Pieta House which he said was a “passion” for him. “I believe all of us should make sure if we see somebody in a dark place, we should put our arms around them,” he said.

The former chief reporter with RTÉ, announced he had been diagnosed with the terminal disease in late October. It came after he suffered a coughing fit and began to notice problems with his voice.

He said a brain scan gave him the all-clear but that he knew “in my mind” that he had the disease.