MORE than €13,000 has been raised for Crumlin Children’s Hospital (CHI) by a Feakle family whose youngest member had open-heart surgery at the facility almost a year ago.
Freya Hayes, who will celebrate her first birthday next month, was diagnosed with a serious heart defect shortly after birth. Thanks to the team at CHI, Freya has now fully recovered and her family and the local community have been able to make a substantial donation so that other children might be as fortunate.
Freya’s mum, Avril Collentine told The Champion the family had had “a roller coaster year” in 2020, with the pandemic complicating an already challenging situation.
Just as mum and baby were ready to go home to dad Henry and Freya’s older brother, Harry, an ultra-sound scan detected an issue. The images were sent to CHI, where specialists spotted a hole in Freya’s heart. After the team at Crumlin recommended open-heart surgery, the family returned home to allow Freya to build up her weight and strength until she reached around five months of age. “We were nervous, but the team in Crumlin were just amazing,” said Avril. “They have everyone from a psychologist to a dietician to a social worker and they really prepare you well. We were told that Freya could be in hospital for anything from two weeks to five months, and to be ready for that.”
Freya’s surgery, which took several hours, involved a leading edge technique to patch the hole in her heart.
“It was terribly hard, even though I knew she was getting the best of care. Thankfully, everything went well. Freya was in ICU for four days after the operation. She was taken back in there, briefly, and was in hospital for 12 days in total. While we were there, we realised how lucky we were, especially when you see what other families are going through.”
Last December, hoping to harness the goodwill of the festive season, the family organised a community fundraiser for CHI. Originally, before the return to more severe pandemic restrictions, Avril and the team invited tractors, cars and vehicles of all kinds to ‘dress up’ for Christmas and take part in a fundraising drive around Feakle. Disappointingly, that event had to be cancelled, but the response to the virtual event was phenomenal. “We got all kinds of amazing pictures and videos from people who decorated their own cars and tractors at home,” said Avril. People were just amazing. We raised a lot of the money on Justgiving.com, but so many people dropped envelopes of cash to us too.”
When the money was totted up at CHI, it came to a total of €13,377.31, to the delight of the team there.
“Here at CHF Crumlin, we know that the future of paediatric care and research is brighter because of compassionate people like you making the decision to support our work in CHI at Crumlin and the National Children’s Research Centre,” said Antoinette Kelly, Head of Community Fundraising. “Your support is felt through the extraordinary care that is given to sick children and their families by our doctors, nurses and staff, every day. It is in the comforting smiles of our play specialists and the soothing melodies created by our music therapists. Your generosity means that children in Crumlin will have every chance that world-class treatment, equipment and research can provide – today, tomorrow and always.”
Avril paid tribute to the entire community for their support in making the Feakle Festive Drive such a success. “This money will make a huge different in CHI,” she said. “Everyone was just fantastic and responded so well when we had to move the drive online. Because Freya was in the cardiac unit for children, we’d love to see some of the money being spent there, but no matter where it’s spent at CHI, it will make a big difference to the children and families that need it.”