It is amazing how much positivity can come out of a happening that seems to bring nothing but sadness.
Six years ago this week, a little girl passed away after a brief bout with illness. She was a dote, with the face of an angel, as you can see from the photograph here. Her parents must have thought she would be a heartbreaker, but not in the way they imagined. On that night just 300 weeks ago, she took seriously ill and by the next day she had passed away, taken by the scourge of meningitis that has visited so many families across this country for years.
When I first heard the story and wrote about it for this newspaper, I was moved to tears at the sheer horror of what had happened. How it had evolved so quickly. How could a child go from being so well to being so ill in such a short space of time? When that first story came across my desk those years ago, I was taken by the angelic almost surreal innocence of the child’s face, only to be shocked minutes later to discover that she was the subject of the story because she had died. I did not know her parents at the time, but my heart melted for them and it was one of the most difficult stories I ever had to write.
But when we look back now on the short life of Aoibhe Carroll, we do so with a sense of pride and achievement. Granted, her parents would swop the world to have her back again, but the unselfishness that Siobhan and Noel have displayed in the intervening years by founding the Aoibhe Carroll Trust — ACT For Meningitis make them just two of the many unsung heroes in our communities who use their heartbreak, their pain, their unbearable suffering and turn that energy into something good from which we all benefit.
Losing a child is perhaps the most unimaginable pain a parent can suffer. The many parents of ill children around this county at the moment will testify to that great fear and our thoughts go out to them all.
I spoke to a young mother lately whose son contracted meningitis late last year. The sheer speed of the condition acts as a tornado in the life of a family. Their whole being is turned upside down, trying to save a life, trying to rebuild a life and doing all of this while minding other children.
Tears came to her eyes as she spoke of the help that ACT for Meningitis provided. Without their support, her son would not have made the progress and recovery he has.
Young Aoibhe Carroll, if she had lived, might have gone on in life to have achieved great things, to be a source of great pride to Noel and Siobhan. However, in their grief, they took up the mantle of the good work she might have done, and by throwing themselves headlong into ACT for Meningitis, they have unselfishly shared their grief to ensure that not many others go through what they did.
In the way that they would have been immensely proud of her had she gone on to achieve such things, Aoibhe Carroll is undoubtedly proud of the great work that her parents and family and friends have done in her name.