RMH ‘kept my fam­ily to­gether’

He­len O’Cal­laghan learns about Ron­ald McDon­ald House

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Parenting -

ROSIE Con­neely knows the Ron­ald McDon­ald House (RMH) is what kept her fam­ily to­gether for 10 tough months fol­low­ing her daugh­ter’s bone mar­row trans­plant.

Aideen, now 12, was just four when di­ag­nosed with Myelodys­plas­tic syn­drome – pre-leukaemia. Di­ag­no­sis fol­lowed months of trou­bling symp­toms. “She was ex­tremely tired. She’d be jump­ing on the tram­po­line and have to come off. At her brother’s Com­mu­nion the pre­vi­ous May, the house was full of cousins and Aideen went off to bed. We had to wake her up,” says the Co Gal­way-based mum of three.

Other symp­toms in­cluded poor colour and poor eat­ing, but it took time for tests to re­veal the cause of the ill-health. In Septem­ber 2010, Aideen was di­ag­nosed at Crum­lin Hos­pi­tal. “Her only op­tion was a bone mar­row trans­plant. Her sib­lings weren’t a match,” says Rosie, also mum to Dar­ragh, 17, and Rachael, 15.

Fi­nally, a donor was found and a trans­plant date set for March. At best, Aideen would be hos­pi­talised for four-tosix weeks, so Rosie “went into over­drive”, won­der­ing how she and hus­band Gerry could stay close by.

How­ever, Aideen de­vel­oped Graft Ver­sus Host dis­ease (GVHD), stage four in her gut and stage two on her skin, five weeks post-trans­plant. Her hos­pi­tal stay stretched to 10 months.

Her par­ents stayed at the RMH in the hos­pi­tal grounds. RMH sup­ports fam­i­lies whose chil­dren are the sick­est, who have the fur­thest to travel and whose hos­pi­tal stay is the long­est. “It kept my fam­ily to­gether. Gerry did nights in the hos­pi­tal with Aideen and I did days. If there was an emer­gency, we’d be in the hos­pi­tal in five min­utes; there was no hop­ping in the car.”

When Aideen’s sib­lings — who were cared for in Gal­way by Rosie’s mother-in-law — vis­ited, the house was a haven. “Their lives were so un­cer­tain with the crazi­ness of it all, but they could stay in the house any­time. There was a lovely play­house in­side and a tree­house in the gar­den. It was their se­cu­rity blan­ket. Fam­i­lies are pro­vided with hot meals. We had to spend Christ­mas Day 2011 in the house. A lovely cou­ple come in ev­ery year and cook Christ­mas din­ner for fam­i­lies at the RMH Christ­mas party early in De­cem­ber and again on Christ­mas Day.”

Aideen was the first child in Eu­rope to sur­vive GVHD stage four. To­day, she’s in sixth class and full of en­ergy. “She loves foot­ball, dance, drama, swim­ming. She’s al­ways smil­ing,” says Rosie, who’s on the board of the RMH Char­ity.

CHAL­LENG­ING TIMES: Aideen Con­neely stayed in hos­pi­tal for 10 months fol­low­ing a bone mar­row trans­plant.

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