Valerie Cox tells how husband recovered from virus that hits brain of 'two people in a million'

Valerie Cox, who spent 11 years reporting on RTE Radio One's "Today with Sean O'Rourke" programme spoke about her husband Brian's long battle to overcome encephalitis.

The illness left him in a coma with little hope of survival, but Valerie said that she never believed that Brian was going to die, even though the consultants did.

In March 2016, Valerie and her husband Brian travelled to Greece to work as volunteers with refugees and while there Brian became seriously ill on a very remote island, fell into a coma and was airlifted to Athens.

After two months in hospital there, he was airlifted home to Ireland, but it wasn't until two weeks ago that he returned to his own home.

Valerie told Sean that he had picked up a virus, herpes viral encephalitis, which is the cold sore. Valerie said that he may have been carrying it anyway, but the virus hits the brain of two people in a million who then have a brain seizure and they go into a coma. She then added that 66% pass away immediately.

She said: "Nobody ever expected Brian to recover as he has done. When he was in the coma, they told me he might never wake."

Valerie Cox pictured helping refugees in Greece in "Exodus: A Would You Believe" Special on RTE 1.

Having been airlifted home to Dublin, Valerie spoke of having a roster in the family who waited at his bedside as he gradually started to come out of the coma.

She explained how Brian was still paralysed at first when he woke up and how the family got excited over the littlest of things, such as an eyebrow moving.

As things progressed, Brian still found that he couldn't talk so his friend, Father Stephen Monaghan, who was able to lip read worked out that Brian was asking if he was dying.

Valerie revealed that they told Brian: "No, you were, but you're not anymore, you're getting better."

Brian has defied the odds, in that he has returned home after 18 months of care, with Valerie saying he is "perfectly functional but there is the odd little blip".

Valerie said: "He's able to write, read, he's putting the finishing touches to a book he has written. His speech is perfect, his long-term memory is perfect but his short-term memory was non-existent and now I'd say it's about 95%."

"I never believed that he was going to die, the consultants did."

Last October, consultants told Valerie that Brian had reached his peak.

"They were totally wrong," she said.

Having been told that he was going to a nursing home last October, Valerie and her family were determined not to let that happen.

She said: "We're a very strong very family and I knew that we'd work together. I mean, if we'd listened to the consultants, where would Brian be now?

"You need someone who believes in your patient."


Most Read in Ireland