The world came tumbling down for Donal and Siobhán Madden when their newborn baby daughter was diagnosed with three holes in her heart.
Aibhlín was born two weeks premature at University College Hospital, Galway during a visit to the Galway Races.
After spending about a week in the premature baby unit, the couple were getting ready to take their bundle of joy home when she was sent her for a final check-up.
Their initial joy was replaced with devastation when a doctor told them a murmur had been detected in her heart. An ECG confirmed their worst fears – she had three holes in her heart.
Donal said it was like giving sweets to a child and taking them away. The Clonlara senior full-forward and St Munchin’s College secondary school teacher admitted their whole world came tumbling down.
“All we could hear was ‘heart, three holes and Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin’. She was allowed home for a few days and the following Tuesday, when she was only eight or nine days old, she was admitted to Our Lady’s Hospital.
“Going into Our Lady’s Hospital was a very moving experience. When you go into a big ward and see so many children of all ages with cancer and pipes and wires coming out of their body, you begin to realise your situation isn’t too bad after all.
“Even though the staff are working in third world facilities in terms of accommodation, they have been tremendous in terms of care and support,” he said.
Initially doctors felt Aibhlín would need two bouts of open-heart surgery. However, top medics are now confident she should be able to fully recover in about a year as the gap in her heart has reduced and is continuing to decline.
The couple were spared the inconvenience of having to travel to Our Lady’s once a fortnight after doctors agreed to carry out ECGs and check-ups in UCH and Our Lady’s on alternative two weeks intervals.
Their heart-rending story and the care provided to family members of students attending St Munchin’s College in Our Lady’s and Milford Hospice has prompted a major fundraising drive for these two charitable causes and the Clare 250-Mile Cycle.
Principal Fr Charles, current and past pupils, and the board of management are all rowing in behind these charity events.
These include allowing staff members to grow facial hair which resulted in Donal Madden being nicknamed “Chuck Norris”; a first year soccer blitz; a guess the score in the Premiership; a coffee morning on December 10 and a 30km cycle starting from St Munchin’s at 9am on December 11 arriving at Twomilegate, Killaloe. This will be followed by a mountain climb at Moylaighusa between Ogonnelloe and Killaloe.
Briain Danagher, Blackwater, Ardnacrusha explained that students wanted to raise money for all these charities after hearing so many personal stories from family members.
Paul Curtis from Parteen knows the inside of Our Lady’s better than most having travelled up and down to see his sister Nicole (23) receive six open heart surgeries after being born with a hole in her heart and one heart chamber.
His parents, Paul and Caroline, who have been involved in fundraising for the Irish Heart Foundation have been featured on the Late Late Show.
Nicole, who has used an oxygen tank since she was ten, has often spent over six months in Our Lady’s while the family often visited her during Christmas following various operations and treatments. She has two other sisters Sharon (10) and Megan (22).
Steel ribs had to be inserted into Nicole because of having so many heart operations and she now regularly attends the Mater Hospital for regular check-ups and treatment.
Shannon Banks man Ray Murnane recalled his paternal grandfather, Louis Murnane and his grandmother were diagnosed with cancer within two weeks of each other. Louis was 74 when he died from lung cancer but Margaret recovered and is still living in Athlunklard Street, Limerick.
Ray paid glowing tributes to Milford Hospice to the tremendous care it provided to his grandparents and didn’t think twice when he heard about the chance of getting involved in the cycle and mountain climb to raise money for the charities. His mother, Margaret and brother, Alan, who teaches in the college, will participate in the coffee morning on December 10.
Donal’s mother, Kay, who lives in Tulla was sent to Lourdes by the Clare 250 mile cycle after contracting cancer in 1998. She successfully recovered and now the family are always keen to raise money for the Clare 250 event.
All financial support and help with the events would be appreciated by the college. Donations can be lodged to a special account at the Bank of Ireland Caherdavin branch in Limerick at 19438387 Sort Code 900762.