Children's hospitals are like disabled parking spaces — you tend to ignore them and hope you will never need them. And then suddenly, when it turns out you do need them, they become the most important thing in the world.
So many of us are blase about Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin. Everyone nods and sympathises when we hear that they are short of cash and facilities — a complacency inspired by the fact that you hope you are never affected by this shortfall, but it is a foolish assumption to make.
Every year huNdreds of Galway familes are suddenly finding out the importance of Crumlin and are disturbed by how it has been left to flounder in terms of fundraising while the great debate about the National Children's Hospital rages on. Even yesterday (Wednesday ), several new sites in Dublin were named as potential locations for the hospital — all of which is fine, but the construction delays will mean that the children who need the facilities now will be adults by the time that superb facility is open, wherever.
And with all the politicking and posturing about the new hospital, Crumlin has been forgotten about and left in a funding limbo by the State, as the prevarication over the new hospital goes on. But what should never be forgotten is that sick children are out of time. They are ill - right now. They have complex needs — right now. So they need the best help they can get — right now. Their illnesses and life threatening conditions ignore time and circumstance, their battle for wellness will not wait until tomorrow. So while talk of a new children's hospital is grand, until then, the pressure is on to give Crumlin the research funding and building funding it now needs.
At this very moment, infants born prematurely are having open heart surgery in Our Lady's Chrildren's Hospital in Crumlin. You would like to think that these surgeries are being carried out in state of the art, modern facilities, indicative of a developed country in the 21st century. But this is not the case.
Dr Orla Franklin, paediatric consultant cardiologist said that she has to look into the eyes of parents whose babies are critically ill right now.
"It's of no relief to them to say world class facilities are coming down the line. We desperately need to upgrade these old, damp and unsuitable wards for the children of today and not for the theoretical children of 2016."
However, a group of Galway people are determined to ensure that funding for Crumlin's facilities and equally importantly, its research foundation, is provided and to that end, they have arranged a golf classic in Galway Golf Club on May 4, when they hope to raise thousands for the Children's Medical and Reserach Foundation. They are calling on people from the Galway area to support this venture so that thousands can be raised for the hospital.
So who uses Crumlin?
Galwaywoman Lorraine Deacy said that the staff at Crumlin were a tremendous support to herself and her husband Norman when their young son Matthew was ill in 2003. Matthew spent six weeks in the hospital and during this difficult time for him and his family, it was the care and support of the nurses that kept them going.
"People in general do not care about children’s hospitals until they need them, and to be fair, that is just human nature. If it does not affect them, then they take no interest. Nobody cares until it's on their doorstep. It wasn't planned that it would be on our doorstep in 2003, but it was, and how thankful we were that we had Crumlin. That is why we will always do our utmost to highlight the fundraising for the hospital.
“Because of what Crumlin did and continues to do for Matthew and my family, I always make myself available to talk about this and to encourage people to fundraise for the facility.,” said Lorraine who spents weeks and weeks in the hospital and got to know it inside out.
“Matthew slept for the first three months while they sought to diagnose what was wrong, so it was a very traumatic time for us all.
“I slept on a piece of foam on the floor beside his bed and we fell in love with the nurses who gave us confidence to go on and who put our minds at ease.
“They are utterly professional and seem to have some sort of calling for their profession. What they do is so difficult, especially in the conditions in which they have to work. They gave us knowledge and a shoulder to cry on.
Lorraine noted that a lot of the fundraising that was done for Crumlin in the good days has now fallen away.
“There were a lot of direct debits and fundraisers for Crumlin before but it is a sign of the times that people are not as willing or able to give as much as they were, but it is very important that the facility is kept open and funded.”
For Tony and Rose Kavanagh, the hospital in Crumlin was the focus of their lives for six weeks in 2010, when their infant son Denis developed bacterial endocarditis — an infection of the inner surface of the heart or the heart valves caused by bacteria.
“The service we received there was top class. And this was from everyone. From the consultants to the people who served the food, to the cleaners, the support was overwhelming. And these were people who were working in a facility that was literally crumbling and creaking at the seams, because of its age.
It was a very tough time because we had children at home, so at any time, one of us was in Dublin with Denis, but we had great neighbours and friends who rallied round us and got us through it.
“In Crumlin, the staff were incredible. Denis needed CT scans done and they were done immediately,which was critical for his diagnosis and they even had a patient family liaison worker who guided us through the various stages and who gave us great advice on how to keep the children at home informed and help them maintain a normal family life throughout it all.
“Thankfully, Denis is fine now, but he has to go back from time to time for checkups and we are so grateful to the hospital staff for all that they did. They are working miracles despite the physical conditions being very limited. They just don't have the space to allow children of the same ages to be kept together which would make things much easier. Children of different ages have different bedtimes, and watch different programmes on the TV in the wards, so in a new or bigger facility, they would have the capacity to do that.
“We were grateful for Crumlin and we would encourage people who can support this and other fundraisers to do so,” the Kavanaghs said.
Another supporter of the Galway fundraising is David Kelly, who is a manager at the Westwood House Hotel in Galway City. He has a unique insight into what is needed at Crumlin because as a child he travelled regularly to and from the hospital.
“Crumlin became a major part of my life because from the age of eight, I was a regular patient at the hospital, and continued to be so until I reached the age of 18.
"I had been supporting the golf classic fundraiser and I just mentioned to the organisers that I was a sort of past pupil of Crumlin, having spent a lot of my childhood going to and from the hospital having been diagnosed with aortic stenosis as a child.
“It became part of my life. They helped me though that period and while I don't exactly remember the first few years I was there, I am sure that it was very traumatic for my family who had to see me coming and going to the hospital. Crumlin has done amazing work despite the limitations and by supporting this and other events, we can ensure that this top servcie is still there for thousands of Irish families who do not yet know that they may need it.
So how can you help Crumlin?
The Galway group who comprise the Crumlin West of Ireland Fundraising team are holding their golf classic in May with all proceeds going towards the Children's Medical and Research Foundation at Our Lady's Hospital, Crumlin
The event will be staged at Galway Golf Club on May 4 and the subscription is €500 for a team of four (€125 each ). This entry fee includes entry to the competition for the team of four, the provision of a snack lunch, a team dinner, and attendance at the presentation of prizes.
However, if you are not a golfer and still want to contribute, the commitee have a variety of ways in which you can do this, including the sponsorship of tees or greens.
For more details on how to enter, see the advertisement in this paper on page 45 or contact Jim Doyle at 086-2208173 or John McGinley at 087 - 2885585.
Hopefully, you may never have to use that facility, but we never know when someone in our life might. Do your bit for Crumlin and help Galway children continue to get the care they deserve.