Born with a heart condition, a young Ballyea woman has spent the past 16 years travelling to Crumlin Children’s Hospital. This year, after having what she hopes will be her final heart surgery, Lauren Coote decided to raise money for the heart centre at the hospital, in recognition of the care she received there.
Lauren has just completed her Junior Certificate at Coláiste Muire in Ennis. Before her exams, she and her classmates in C3 organised a no-uniform day and raised €1,335, which she delivered at a recent check-up in the hospital.
“We held the no-uniform day in the last week before school ended. We involved the school because we wanted to raise as much money as possible. I brought the idea to the principal and then all the class helped out, counting the money and letting people know about it,” Lauren outlined.
“The reason we did this is because I have been going to Crumlin all my life since I was a small baby. I had two heart surgeries there but this one (in October 2013) was a biggie because, hopefully, it will be my last one,” she said.
“The money will go especially to the Children’s Heart Centre in the hospital because it is the centre for all of Ireland. It is brand new and was all built on donations. You could, if you wanted to, write down a list of what you wanted the money to be spent on but they know what they need, so I didn’t do that. The centre is particularly important to me because of all the time I spent there and I decided to do this because I am so grateful to Professor Mark Redmond and all the staff there for their care,” she outlined.
Lauren had her first major heart surgery when she was six-years-old.
“At my six-week check-up, my heart wasn’t functioning properly and it was something to do with the valve. When I was six, I had a tissue aortic valve put in but I outgrew that and it had to be replaced again in October. It was a mechanical valve they put in this time,” she explained.
According to Lauren, while having heart problems did make life difficult as a child, her family, friends and teachers, especially in Ballyea National School, were very understanding.
“All along, as I grew up, I couldn’t do as much PE as anyone else. I couldn’t play sports in school or anything. I had no energy. Sometimes when everyone was going to sports, I would stay in the school and help other teachers. All my teachers were really good to me in primary school especially because if I needed a drink or time out, everyone would stop for me, so it didn’t feel as bad,” she recalled.
In October, Lauren travelled to Crumlin for what she hoped would be her last hospital stay. “Everything was going fine after the surgery. I only missed eight weeks at school and then I started going back for half days and I would come in for my main classes, like English, Irish and maths. Then I got sick again on December 12 and I spent seven weeks in Crumlin again. I got out at the end of January. What happened was I got a serious infection that no one knew about. It was going on all along but I didn’t realise. I was on antibiotics up there,” she explained.
While there Lauren’s parents would stay for a week at a time and her 12-year-old brother, Robbie, would also come to visit.
“The four of us were there for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and St Stephen’s Day together, so that was quite nice. I was in ICU on Christmas Eve but I got out on Christmas Day, thank God and then we all got Christmas dinner together,” she recalled.
Lauren has to have a check-up every six months at the moment and it was at her most recent one that she delivered the money she and her school-mates raised.
“I take a blood thinner and do my bloods at home every week on a little machine that I have. I ring the hospital every week with my bloods and they tell me how many milligrams of Warfarin I take, so we are in contact all the time with them. We brought up the cheque at my June check-up after the Junior Cert. My friend, Siobhan Mahony, came with me, along with mom. They were delighted when we told them about the money. They couldn’t believe it because my cardiac doctor, Dr Kevin Walsh, we went to him first, and he was overwhelmed. He was delighted that we thought of them and decided to do this,” Lauren concluded.