Brave young Cork woman battling brain tumour thanks hospital for her care 

Cork women Sarah Weathers, aged 20, wanted to give back to those who helped her battle a brain tumour, writes CHRIS DUNNE
Brave young Cork woman battling brain tumour thanks hospital for her care 
West Cork woman Sarah Weathers with her parents Mary and Gerry and the cheque for Beaumont Hospital.

WHEN Banteer woman Sarah Weathers became ill three years ago due to a benign tumour affecting her brain and her spine, she received the best care at Beaumont Hospital.

The 20-year-old wanted to give something back to the people who supported her in her journey back to good health — and presented a cheque for €15,500 to the hospital recently.

“I was gravely ill and didn’t know what the outcome would be,” says Sarah.

Since her first experience in Beaumont Hospital in May, 2017, Sarah has become familiar with the medical staff there and the wonderful work that they do.

“The nurses are so vigilant in the Richmond ward in Beaumont and the dinner man kept me going!

“I have great time for my neurosurgeon, Mr Rawluk,” adds Sarah.

“He came in to see me every day. He’s really dapper and he’s a snazzy dresser!” says Sarah laughing.

Mr Rawluk is part of a dedicated committed medical team in Beaumont Hospital who do life-saving work every day.

Sarah Weathers with her neuro-surgeon, Daniel Rawluk.
Sarah Weathers with her neuro-surgeon, Daniel Rawluk.

“The staff in the Richmond ward, especially Mr Rawluk, saved my life,” says Sarah. “I’m still here.”

The Banteer girl, who works in Waterpower Kanturk, and who is resuming her studies in Business at UL soon, presented a cheque for €15,500 to Beaumont Hospital last month.

“My goal was to raise €5,000 for Beaumont when I decided to organise a table quiz in January at the White County Inn, Banteer,” says Sarah.

“The whole village got behind me and they came out in force. We had to set up more tables and chairs to accommodate the huge crowd! The funds had reached €4,000 before the quiz even took place! We were blown away.”

Sarah’s mother, Mary, was blown away when the neighbours rowed in to help out the family while she was keeping vigil at her daughter’s bedside in hospital.

“Dinners were delivered to the door,” says Mary.

“The boys, Mathew and Pierce, never had to worry about meals or laundry. Everyone helped us out and wished us well when Sarah was ill.

“The parish priest offered up masses for the sick. We all knew he was praying for Sarah.”

Sarah had more divine intervention to see her return to good health, continue to enjoy her youth, and look forward to a rewarding career.

“Gerry’s dad died before Sarah went to hospital. She had an extra angel in heaven looking out for her,” says Mary.

Along with her grandad, her family, her friends, and the community of Banteer, Sarah rallied under the care of her medical professionals. She is now looking forward to her future.

“I want to work in HR,” says Sarah.

That is not surprising.

“She whips me into shape!” says Mary.

And would it be fair to say she has dad wrapped around her finger?

“It would!” agrees Mary.

So when did Sarah’s health problems first arise?

When she was midway through her fifth year in secondary school at Coláiste Treasa, Kanturk, she began experiencing hearing problems and her eye turned in — nobody realised there was a bigger problem lurking under the surface.

“Professor O’Keefe, ophthalmologist, carried out eye surgery in the Mater Private,” says Sarah.

Sarah Weathers with her brothers Matthew and Pierce.
Sarah Weathers with her brothers Matthew and Pierce.

“He was puzzled why the surgery didn’t work. Was there something else?”

An MRI confirmed that Sarah had two benign acoustic neuroma which occur on the nerves for balance and hearing leading to the inner ear.

“The ENT specialist, Mike Harney, was really taken aback, as was ophthalmologist Sarah Dwyer in Ballincollig,” says Sarah.

“It was the last thing that they expected to show up.”

It was a rare occurrence, affecting less than 10 people in Ireland.

Sarah was referred to the neurosurgery clinic in Beaumont Hospital where she met Mr Daniel Rawluk who discussed her options.

“There was some risks having surgery,” says Sarah.

“I could lose my hearing and be left with facial palsy.”

Surgery seemed like the only option.

“Otherwise the tumour would keep growing,” says Sarah.

She wanted to keep some semblance of normality.

“I wanted to get it over and done with so I could get on with my Leaving Cert studies.”

Sarah underwent an intricate, ten-hour operation during her school summer holidays.

“The tumour was like an egg,” says Sarah. “It wouldn’t come away easily.”

Her mother and father never came away from their daughter’s hospital bedside.

“We were 10 days by her bed,” says Mary. “The neurosurgeon didn’t take all of the tumour because of danger to surrounding nerves. It was a danger zone. But five days later, after an MRI, we were relieved to discover that 95% of the tumour was removed.”

Sarah underwent physiotherapy treatment for her balance and she went home to a great welcome.

“I was to have more physio in CUH,” says Sarah.

“When I went home after the operation, people and friends were calling to see me all the time. My teachers were great.”

There were great celebrations.

Sarah Weathers with close friends Rachel O’Shaughnessy and Sarah O’Leary.
Sarah Weathers with close friends Rachel O’Shaughnessy and Sarah O’Leary.

“We did up the spare bedroom so that Sarah and her friends could have their own space and do what teens do,” says Mary.

Their daughter’s 18th birthday was looming. Treatment for the remainder of the tumour was looming too.

“I had CyperKnife radiation treatment in the Hermitage in Dublin as a precaution,” says Sarah.

“The tumour found space to grow again. I needed to get rid of it.”

She was willing to go to any lengths to be rid of the tumour that impacted on her everyday life.

“I was pinned down for the radiation treatment and I had to wear a mask. It made me a bit sick and I felt tired afterwards. But everything went fine.”

When Sarah went back to school her friends were surprised by her return to the classroom.

“Are you crazy? they asked me,” says Sarah, smiling.

“I wanted to continue as normal.”

Sarah did continue as normal in between going up and down to Dublin being monitored. She found time to take time out from her ordeal.

“We went on a family holiday with two other families to Lanzarote. It was fabulous.”

She had a couple of decisions to make.

“I filled out my CAO, Business was my first choice,” says Sarah.

“In August, Mr Rawluk wanted to do radiation treatment with the second tumour, which could affect my hearing even more.”

But there was some good news.

“I got my place in Limerick to study Business,” says Sarah.

“Still being monitored closely by the medics, she took up her college place and looked forward to the future.

“One morning I woke up, my hearing was gone,” says Sarah. “I went to a tutorial and I couldn’t hear anything. I thought I was imagining it.”

Mary rushed to her daughter and to ENT specialist Michael Harney, who, realising inflammation had resulted from treatment pressing on the acoustic nerve, prescribed steroids for Sarah.

“I was looking forward to Christmas and I had so many plans,” says Sarah.

She got over that hurdle. She had corrective surgery on her eye carried out by Professor O’Keefe.

Christmas came and went and Sarah passed her first year exams. And she also got to travel.

“I went on holidays to Belguim,” says Sarah. “I had a great summer with my friends going to Tomorrowland Festival and to Indie in August.”

She started work.

“I began working for the summer in Waterpower, Kanturk.”

“I love it there and I get on great with them all,” says Sarah.

But she wasn’t out of the woods yet.

“I began getting weird headaches. Mum went into overdrive.”

Sarah had fluid in the brain, hydrocephalus. She had to return to Beaumont Hospital and to Mr Rawluk.

“I had a shunt inserted in my brain to drain excess fluid from my brain,” explains Sarah.

“Within a few days of returning home, I became ill and was sent back up to Beaumont. The wound seemed fine. The doctors were baffled. I was given anti-viral drugs and began to respond slowly. I spent three weeks in Beaumont.”

Back home, the village of Banteer hoped and prayed that Sarah would pull through.

“I was hell-bent on going back to Limerick to college,” says Sarah. “The staff there are great. I love them.

“But I would have to wait out the recovery period of six to eight weeks.”

She got the best of care in the best of hands.

“The nurses were so vigilant,” says Sarah.

“The Richmond ward were amazing and really looked after me.”

Sarah wanted to do something for the people who had come to her rescue when the chips were down.

“The community came out in spades for the quiz,” says Sarah.

Everyone was in her corner.

“I was on the All-Ireland badminton team and I played GAA. I still trained with the camogie team, they wouldn’t let me off the team. They wouldn’t leave me on the side-lines.”

Sarah is in great spirits. Enjoying life, she has a smile on her face and a spring in her step, especially with the wonderful response to her fundraising mission for Beaumont Hospital.

“I am still undergoing holistic and medical treatments,” she says.

“I may be looking at further surgery for my right eye-lid and plastic surgery on my face.”

The journey back to health was a huge ordeal for the brave 20-year-old.

“The good news is that the tumour has shrunk,” says Sarah.

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