The deaths of two young people who succumbed to Cystic Fibrosis caused shock in the county over the past week. Ennis woman, Katie Drennan and Noel Colleran Junior from Quin died within a day of each other.
Farewell to ‘inspirational’ Katie
People were shocked and saddened when news filtered through of the death of 24-year-old, Katie Drennan, Claureen, Lahinch Road, Ennis.
Leading the tributes, Cystic Fibrosis Association of Ireland chief executive officer, Philip Watt described Katie as a “remarkable lady”, who was “inspirational” in her role as an advocate for all CF sufferers.
Praising the dedication and hard work of Katie and her family for organising countless fundraising events in aid of the new €5.2 million purpose-built unit for CF sufferers at the University Hospital Limerick (UHL), he said last week was an extremely difficult and traumatic one for local CF sufferers and their families.
Parish priest of Inagh and Kilnamona, Fr Sean Sexton, who was the chief celebrant at her funeral mass on Monday, described Katie as a very “special person”, who was always very positive, despite being dogged by serious illness. Despite her multiple hospital visits, Fr Sexton said it never broke her steely determination to get her life back on track.
Having heard Katie interviewed on the new services that were required by CF sufferers in the region to reduce the risk of infection, he said she was very articulate and informed on the subject.
Having qualified as a make-up artist, he noted how she was very keen to do well in her own cosmetics business.
In 2012, Katie was named as one of the Ennis People of the Year for her work in raising public awareness about CF.
Noel Colleran’s mother, Ann, said her son was friendly with Katie and they used to send messages to each other on social media, as they were unable to meet because of the risk of infection.
TLC4CF, an initiative formed by the Tipperary, Limerick and Clare branches of the CFAI, were delighted when approval was given for the new CF unit at UHL. Katie, her mother, Linda and the Drennan family worked tirelessly to raise funds for the development.
The benefits of the new unit were outlined by Katie, in a wide-ranging presentation, which drew applause from the attendance at the official launch in January 2011.
Addressing the crowd at the time, she said, “The difference this new development will make for my quality of life and for many other CF patients is difficult to summarise. Over the past 20 years I’ve had a lot of experience of the Irish hospital system, some of it good and some quite difficult. I’ve spent a lot of time as an inpatient in the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, in Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin and in St Vincent’s Hospital. This wonderful new facility will improve the lives for all Cystic Fibrosis patients in the Mid-West region,” she said.
“It means patients will not have to travel to other CF centres in Dublin to receive their treatment. Patients will not have to endure long hospital stays away from home. We will no longer fear the risk of cross-infection when we attend the hospital for treatments. Such a unit will also benefit our families as well, as long-term absence from the home due to frequent hospital stays can sometimes be very difficult and long-term absence from our families and friends can sometimes be the hardest to deal with,” she stated.
Members of the Irish Haulage Association formed a guard of honour at her funeral mass on Monday, following which burial took place in Doolin.
She is survived by her mother, Linda; father, Eugene; brother, Jordan, and a very large circle of relatives and friends.
Quin family appeals for organ donations
A Quin couple who are left devastated after the death of two children with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) in over three years, have appealed for everyone to consider organ donation.
Noel and Ann Colleran (née Shannon) say that there are numerous CF patients who are living 10 or 15 years longer following a transplant, which is very worthwhile, despite the unfortunate experience of their son, Noel Junior, who died last week.
He was predeceased by his sister, Laura, who was 23 when she died on December 4, 2011.
Described by his parents as a “quirky, witty character” with a “great sense of humour”, Noel, who turned 25 in December last, received a new lease of life following a double lung transplant in February 2013.
The previous Christmas, he was very ill in hospital and his family was told he only had weeks to live.
Ann says he was very fortunate to get a matching transplant on the first call.
“Over the last eight weeks, we have seen so many families where they have been called up and it didn’t work out. We have seen the devastation of people leaving the corridor. Noel was lucky; he didn’t have to go through that torment,” she says.
Noel was also determined that his experience should not deter other CF patients from organ donation and promoted its benefits as much as he could.
“Even when Noel knew his time was up, he asked Professor Egan if he could donate his heart but he couldn’t because of the drugs he was taking. He signed an organ donation card. He thought he was going to live a full life and give something back.”
Ann points out the generosity of his organ donor enabled Noel to complete strenuous physical activities, such as the Hell and Back endurance course in the South-East and a fun run in Cork, which he would never have dreamed of doing.
Noel developed lymphoma in April 2014, as a result of a bad reaction to the anti-rejection drugs. After recovering from this cancer, he joked if his story didn’t secure his appearance on The Late Late Show, nothing would.
While Noel overcame his bout of cancer, the chemotherapy adversely affected his immune system, which resulted in an infection that seriously damaged his new lungs.
“He was so positive all the time. He never complained. It was so cruel to get new lungs and then lose it all again. He never gave up and he really thought he was going to beat it. He also said he made a promise to Laura, he would never give up. He looked into the face of death the night of his transplant. He had to make a will. He was told there was a good chance he wouldn’t live after his cancer but he did.”
Noel recalls his son was a “rock” of strength during his cancer treatment for his parents. “He was one of 2% of cases who might get his lymphoma. He was unlucky to get the short straw on this one. There are lots of people who get a longer life with a transplant. There is no reason for suggesting that a transplant isn’t worthwhile,” he says.
Ann recalls he put up motivational words on the wall of the hospital, such as “what do you say to death – not today, I am too stubborn to die”.
Noel feels his son could deal with any serious physical ailment, such as a broken leg and cancer. However, when his new lungs became compromised, his confidence and cockiness dissolved.
Noel recalls his son revelled in the Hollywood film world and regularly quoted famous lines from movies during the day. A few days before he died, when his carbon-dioxide levels were going too high, a nurse told him she would have to adjust these levels. He retorted with Clint Eastwood’s line from Heartbeak Ridge – “adapt, improvise and overcome”.
Noel believes his son and Laura didn’t waste any minutes and made sure they lived life to the full.
Noel did a skydive in Tipperary, a simulation of a skydive in Las Vegas and snorkelling in Crete. Always very active, he was already planning to get a cane for his role as groomsman for the forthcoming wedding of his sister, Christine.
Laura, who completed a masters in journalism in NUIG, went into University Hospital Limerick for what was supposed to be a regular dose of IV. She suffered a collapsed lung a week after she was admitted and was buried three weeks to the day of her admission.
Noel went into hospital on a Tuesday night in February 2013 and three weeks later, he walked out the door with a new pair of lungs and a new life.
Ann says Laura was always the stronger and healthier one.
“CF is a rotten disease. We never thought Laura and Noel were going to die because they always so happy and more or less healthy and then we lost the two of them in three years. They had a great life, we have no regrets. Our children were people first and CF just happened to be a condition in the background.
“When your child is diagnosed, you are full of enthusiasm. It is only when people their age start to die, you realise it is not that good after all,” she says.
Noel says up to their later years, you wouldn’t pick Laura or Noel Junior out of a crowd as a result of their CF. Ann says Noel was more open about his condition than Laura and did a few charity events while he was in college.
Noel says the 10-year greater life expectancy in the North is disappointing, as another ten years for their two children would have given them a better chance of availing of new drugs, which are very effective for some patients.
While Noel was in Quin National School, he won numerous prizes in Community Games art competitions. After completing his Leaving Certificate in St Flannan’s in 2007, he went to NUIG to study arts, despite excelling in honours physics, maths and chemistry.
He completed his BA in psychology and philosophy and his masters in film studies, which was one of his passions as he loved film making and critiquing films. He did film reviews for a local newspaper before he got lymphoma.
He loved to travel, visiting various corners of the United States of America, where he fulfilled his ambition of firing a gun at a rifle range in Utah, as well as travelling to Hong Kong and Australia.
While Noel couldn’t engage in sporting activities as a child, due to his reduced lung capacity, his quirky nature and character ensured he had plenty of friends, who enjoyed his interests.
By Dan Danaher.