On loan to us for just 10 years, our girl touched so many people’s lives

When their 10-year-old daughter died, Eoin and Irene O’Connor set about building a legacy of kindness in her memory of the Cork child, writes CHRIS DUNNE
On loan to us for just 10 years, our girl touched so many people’s lives

Béibhinn O'Connor.

THERE’S a whole lot of loving going on in the hearts of Irene and Eoin O’Connor, who have set out to display their grief for their only daughter into a force to be reckoned with.

Their beloved Béibhinn passed away in September, aged just nine years old, but they want to turn the tragedy into something positive.

“We lost B exactly 10 years after we had the 22 week scan telling us we were expecting a daughter,” says Eoin.

“B was loaned to us for 10 years. She touched so many people and she was known for her beautiful smile and kindness.”

Béibhinn, who suffered from an extremely rare congenital heart disease, died after open heart surgery on September 16. She survived the major surgery but passed away after a routine post-operation procedure triggered cardiac arrest.

Now her heartbroken parents, from Riverstick, Co. Cork, are asking people to keep their only child’s spirit alive by carrying out random acts of kindness and posting a picture to social media with the hashtag ‘heartangel’.

“The most important thing for us is to keep her spirit alive and for people to help embrace the kindness B brought to the world in her few short years,” says Irene.

Irene and Eoin created a website, www.theheartangel.com and continued Béibhinn’s blog that Irene started when Béibhinn was born.

Béibhinn O'Connor
Béibhinn O'Connor

“The 17th of September, 2020, would have been 10 years to the day that my mummy and daddy were told they would have a special daughter with a special heart while I was still in mummy’s tummy,” Irene writes on the blog, giving voice to her beloved only daughter.

“Anyway, now I want to do some good in the world. Most people that met me know I love to have fun but I also love all the people I have met. I want everyone to remember me and help me do some good for all the people out there who have special hearts.”

If people participating in Béibhinn’s Random Act of Kindness Campaign wish to donate to the ‘Make- a-Wish- Foundation’ they can do so, to help grant wishes to seriously ill kids who do not get to live a normal life.

Béibhinn Hope O’Connor, The Heart Angel, has touched people’s hearts right across the globe.

“We are getting beautiful messages from as far away as New York and Australia,” says Irene.

The love from heaven is reverberating around the world.

“The New York Police Department posted their random act of kindness. It was lovely.”

The Heart Angel is also helping to heal people’s hearts.

“We are hearing from people who haven’t talked to loved ones or talked to family members for 20 years,” say Irene.

“There were family feuds and fighting going on.”

The Heart Angel softened the hearts of people.

“A man in a sad family situation told us they were all talking to one another again and making amends,” says Irene.

“He said it should have been done years ago. Now he is making up for lost time.”

When Irene and Eoin got Béibhinn, it was the best gift they were ever given. Without her, there is a hole in their hearts. But the hole and the empty void is being filled with love and kindness.

“I knew at the 22 week scan that there was a 50/50 chance she would live,” says Irene.

The couple spent 10 unforgettable years fuelled with love together with Béibhinn, who had a wonderful life.

“Professor Colin McMahon in Crumlin was the first to give us hope,” says Irene.

“When I met him, I was scared of him. He was like God!” Béibhinn began a miraculous journey being embraced and loved by her mum and dad, by all her relations, her friends, and her teachers.

“She touched everyone she met,” says Irene.

Béibhinn was always an angel.

“In school, she was never disciplined, or never at home either!”

When Béibhinn underwent her open heart surgery, she was in the best of hands.

“Professor Redmond is the best in the world,” says Irene.

“He was so confident Béibhinn would be fine.”

Béibhinn O'Connor with friend Lilly.
Béibhinn O'Connor with friend Lilly.

And she was.

“On the way over to ICU in the hospital from Ronald McDonald House, it felt like we’d won the Lotto,” says Irene.

In her heart, Irene had hope.

“Crumlin doesn’t lose children.”

But Irene had a premonition.

“We passed the morgue on the way over,” says Irene.

“Eoin said, ‘what’s wrong? Be happy’.”

Irene’s tragic premonition came true.

“Beibhinn’s heart was doing well,” says Irene.

But the intense CPR by 27 doctors and nurses carried out after the surgery for 45 minutes was unable to save her and she ended up with catastrophic brain damage.

“My premonition came true. Béibhinn was in the morgue on Wednesday. At 4am that morning, she got her confirmation.”

Irene, putting herself in her daughter’s place as her life ebbed away, writes in the blog; “I felt myself float above my body. I could see my mummy and daddy talking to another daddy as they waited patiently outside the ICU door to see me. Daddy looked so happy, he was laughing and telling my story to the other daddy. Mummy looked worried but nothing new there. We were in Crumlin. She always freaks out in Crumlin.

“Then my critical illness nurse Kathleen came out the doors of the ICU. I saw her talking to mummy and daddy. Oh no, what has she said? Mummy barely made it out to the family room before she collapsed on the floor. Mummy what’s wrong! Daddy was crying. Oh my God, something must be terribly wrong. Daddy never cries. I see mummy getting her phone. She is calling Auntie Laura. I hear tell my auntie something terrible has happened. They are doing compressions on me and they may not be able to save me. Oh my goodness. That does not sound good.”

Irene and Eoin, willing their daughter back to life, were helpless.

“The day she was born, I knew we’d have to bury her,” says Irene.

But the time they had together were precious.

“She had an incredibly happy home,” says Irene.

“B saw nothing but love and happiness.”

The Heart Angel created a circle of love.

“Our family live in a circle of three houses. We are all very close,” says Irene.

“My sister Laura was B’s SNA. Laura was a hairdresser and she gave it up to be with B at school. All B’s teachers had a soft spot for her.”

The family who did everything together shared precious memories together.

“B went on a cruise, that was her favourite thing! She travelled to Spain, and to Disneyland, she loved going to concerts. She had a thing for tourist attractions. She loved the Titanic!

“B loved babies and she loved animals. If a spider was killed, she’d freak out!”

She was always happy.

“B never cried,” says Irene. “Even when she fell over, she never cried.”

She didn’t do sadness.

“B expected everyone to be happy. If B saw someone was sad, she’d say ‘try not to be sad now’.”

Béibhinn, a beacon of light, beams the gift of happiness to everyone who sees her.

“She’s on the ‘Make-a-Wish’ poster,” says Irene.

“And she is on their thank-you cards.

“B got to make her wish when she was four when she went to EuroDisney with the foundation.

“Everybody who sees her says, ‘isn’t she beautiful’.”

Béibhinn, keeping her angel family happy, is now making wishes come true for other children with her wonderful Act of Kindness gesture.

“There is over 11 and half thousand euro already raised for The Make a Wish Foundation,” says Irene.

“All the texts, emails and messages from around the world lift me so much. They all inspire me and they motivate me.”

Irene gets inspiration to continue Béihbinn’s blog.

“It’s funny, I was never any good at English or anything like that in school,” says Irene.

“Sometimes I don’t know where the words come from!”

The words flow like pennies from heaven; “I just got to tell you that I lived a very good life. I lived a life full of love and joy. Am I glad I did?

“Eternity is going to be spent feeling how you made others feel on earth. It can be your heaven, or it can feel like hell. It’s all up to you.”

The world is changing, one small act of kindness at a time.

“People are starting to feel happiness and joy again as they see how happy they are making other people. Joy is seeping back into the world that was so sad all year and it’s all because of me,” the blog says.

For more information, see www.theheartangel.com

MORE ABOUT THE CHARITY

Make-a-Wish Children’s Charity is a children’s charity that which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses as part of their treatment. info@makeawish.ie

Niamh Ryan, marketing and communications manager with Make-a-Wish, says; “We are so touched by the kindness of Béibhinn’s family in raising funds for Make-A-Wish Foundation at this very difficult time.

“It is heartening to see so many people mirror the wonderful kindness Béibhinn showed during her short nine years and what a beautiful way to remember such a special girl.

“The funds raised in Béibhinn’s name will go towards granting wishes to more children like her, and on behalf of those children and their families, we would like to say a huge thank-you to the O’Connor family.”

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