FERNANDO Ricksen’s desperate battle with MND is being relived by his widow and one of his closest pals in a new charity book.
The Rangers idol’s wife Veronika, 34, and biographer Vincent De Vries, 46, wrote The Final Battle over six years from the hero’s shattering diagnosis to his death at 43.
Vincent said of the rollercoaster account: “It’s not just about sadness. It’s also about joy.”
Our exclusive serialisation of the Dutch ace’s struggle with the illness will describe moments from his diagnosis in October 2013 up to his death last September.
Now, we tell of Vincent’s tragic diary entries from his final visits to see the stricken Gers hero at St Andrew’s Hospice in Airdrie.
July 2, 2019
“I CAN’T do this any longer.”
“This. Life. Everything.”
His messages get shorter and shorter. He hardly replies.
He broke contact with his mother, with Victor Morgan and with other close friends.
There are constant quarrels with Veronika. He can’t pay his bills anymore.
The meet & greets are over, so there’s nothing to look forward to anymore.
His ex Graciela refuses to pay him the enormous amount of money she owes him, despite the fact that a judge ordered her to do so.
There is, in other words, not much left to live for. He is finished.
That’s probably why he wants to go back to the Netherlands, a country where euthanasia is possible.
I can fully understand it. Every time I visit him, nothing has changed. He is still there, in his bed.
On exactly the same spot and in exactly the same position. While, in the meantime, I have been here, there and everywhere.
For him, it’s the bed — and nothing else.
So it’s quite understandable that he thinks: let me go to a country where they can terminate this useless life.
Ricksen’s tragic story
CULT hero Fernando won seven trophies in his six-year spell at Rangers following a £3.75million transfer from Dutch side AZ Alkmaar in 2000.
He later moved to Zenit St Petersburg in Russia in 2006 and four years later signed again for his first-ever team, Holland’s Fortuna Sittard, before retiring in June 2013.
And just four months later he revealed his shattering MND diagnosis live on Dutch TV.
The Scottish Sun told in October 2013 how Fernando sobbed as he confessed he was “very sick”.
He won fans worldwide with his courageous fight against the muscle-wasting condition.
But eventually he was forced to use a wheelchair and a Stephen Hawking-style computer to talk.
In January last year we revealed he had moved into St Andrew’s Hospice in Airdrie after becoming too unwell to return to Valencia, Spain, to live with wife Veronika, 33, and daughter Isabella, seven.
Fernando made his final public appearance at a Gers fan event last June before passing away at the hospice on September 19, aged 43.
September 4, 2019
“OF COURSE you are welcome!”
I asked him if I could drop by again. And there I am, once more, at the reception of St Andrew’s Hospice in Airdrie.
Only this time it doesn’t feel good.
The cleaning lady doesn’t sing any more.
The woman behind the desk doesn’t ask me about the Netherlands any more.
The nurse I bump into doesn’t greet me, but stares at the floor. And she has something to say to me.
“He is really bad today. You can choose: come back some other time or have a quick look now.
“One minute, not more.”
I decide to do the latter. So I enter his room – and I am shocked.
He is totally quiet. The telly is off. There is nothing but silence.
I know I only have 60 seconds, so I ask him what I haven’t asked him for months now.
“How are you?”
Ricksen’s final interview
THE book also details the inspirational star’s last ever interview with a Dutch radio journalist about his fears for the future.
In the diary entry from June 20 last year, Fernando tells ex-Paralympic wheelchair basketball player Roos Oosterbaan: “The battle gets more difficult by the day.”
Roos asks: “Have you ever had a moment on which you thought, ‘life isn’t worth living any more?’.”
Fernando: “Sure. As you can imagine, it’s absolutely terrible when you can’t do things by yourself any more.
“When you can’t speak, can’t move.. When you are forced to eat and drink via a tube.That ain’t living. That’s trying to survive.”
Roos: “And what do you do when you’ve had enough? When you are really depressed?”
Fernando: “I close my eyes and listen to music. Andrea Bocelli.”
Asked if he hoped his daughter Isabella would become a good footballer, he replied: “That’s my dream.”
With one eye closed and one half open, he ‘types’ a letter.
He closes both eyes and his head falls forwards.
Ten seconds later he raises his head again, with quite a bit of effort. Once again a letter appears.
And the same happens again. Eyes, head… And another letter.
Same routine, in complete silence.
And a final one, with really a lot of effort.
And I think: this is the moment. The moment to go. To say goodbye – forever.
I bend over and give him a kiss on the forehead. I then touch his face for the very last time.
And I thank him for everything. For all the beautiful moments he has given me – and the world.
September 7, 2019
WHATSAPP from Fernando, via the browser of his computer, to Veronika in Spain.
“See you another time. Bye bye bye.”
September 18, 2019
FERNANDO hasn’t woken up since he fell asleep, three days ago.
And now, shortly after 10am, the last muscles in his body stop working. He doesn’t breathe any more.
As Veronika calls me with the sad news, I curse and I cry.
But at the same time, I am relieved. For him. For her. Because there won’t be any suffering any more. The fight is over.
BIOGRAPHER Vincent has told how he fought tears as he read back about his final meetings with his late pal.
The journalist, 46 — who spent nearly seven years compiling the book — admitted that it was emotional reliving the journey in print.
Vincent told The Scottish Sun: “It was very tough reading back my visits to the hospice.
“That was the hardest piece of the book, the last visit.
“I wrote it maybe ten times because it was so hard.
“It was a very tough day leaving because I knew for sure that that would be the last time I saw him.
“It was emotional partly because I never showed emotion in front of him. I had to be strong for him.
“There were tears for sure when I read it back. He’s in my mind every day. I miss him a lot.”
The pair spoke every day on WhatsApp and travelled to Rangers fan events together, with Vincent also making regular trips to see him in the hospice in his final months.
And it was Fernando’s wish to have the book published after his death — to show how tough fighting MND is.
Vincent said: “He said, ‘Please write the book but show the negatives and the positives’.
“It’s not a book just about sadness, it’s also about joy.
“He wanted people to know more about MND. It was an honour to know him and to read back in the book how he never gave up.
“He still had humour till the end. Could I have done that? I don’t think so.
“He knew he would die soon but he kept joking and making people laugh.
“It shows the real Fernando.”
Adapted by Scottish Sun reporter Ben Archibald from Fernando Ricksen: The Final Battle – Life with MND by Vincent De Vries and Veronika Ricksen.
The book is available from June 22 for £16.99 and e-books cost £9.99 and orders can be made online at www.fernandothebook.com.
Part of the proceeds from the sale will go to the Rangers Charity Foundation.