Limerick nursing home residents left wide-eyed after visit from exotic neighbours

Aine Fitzgerald

Reporter:

Aine Fitzgerald

SHE may have had one of the world’s largest and deadliest breed of snake slung around her neck but 85-year-old Kate O’Regan didn’t mind in the slightest.

SHE may have had one of the world’s largest and deadliest breed of snake slung around her neck but 85-year-old Kate O’Regan didn’t mind in the slightest.

“I said I would take the chance. I think he gave me a bit of a squeeze all right,” smiled the Kilfinane woman in reference to the boa constrictor she had over her shoulders.

“It was something to break the monotony of the day,” she added.

Kate, along with 61 fellow residents of Maria Goretti Nursing Home in Kilmallock, enjoyed the company of a host of exotic creatures including an owl, a bearded dragon, and a giant rabbit when the Animal Magic roadshow based in Kilmallock paid a complimentary visit.

“It was amazing. We were a bit apprehensive about some people but the reaction from everybody was brilliant even with the snake,” said Karen Barron–Burke, director of nursing at Maria Goretti nursing home.

“Even people who would be frightened about normal, everyday things reacted so well with them, especially with the owl, the lizard and the rabbit. It went down a treat,” she continued

According to Karen, one 92-year-old lady was more concerned about the snake interfering with her handbag than she was about having him around her neck.

“She actually said to me: ‘make sure he doesn’t go near my handbag’,” smiled Karen.

While the boa constructor drew lots of oohs and aahs it was the owl who really stole the hearts of the residents.

“My favourite was the owl because he twists his head around, it’s lovely to see and he could clap his wings out beautifully,” said Kate.

“The owl was the highlight – he was beautiful, gorgeous,” added Karen.

A few of the residents have asked: “when is he coming back?”.

While the majority of the residents were introduced to the visitors in the common room of the nursing home, for those unable to leave their bedroom, the creatures were taken to them.

Karen who along with her colleague, care assistant, Sarah O’Flaherty came up with the idea to organise the event, is now in the process of compiling a photo album for the residents. “It was very therapeutic for our residents and was very much enjoyed by all. They are still taking about it. They really loved it,”she said.

And such was the positive feedback from the day, that there are also plans to organise a trip out to the nearby Animal Magic premises for the more able bodied residents.

“We are going to get a pet rabbit here as well,” smiled Karen.