Cork family: Nursing service was a life-saver for our boy as he battled brain tumour

A the annual ‘Mercy Heroes’ fundraising drive for the Mercy Kids and Teens Appeal takes place  CHRIS DUNNE talks to one family who have benefited from the Paediatric Oncology Outreach Nursing Service
Cork family: Nursing service was a life-saver for our boy as he battled brain tumour

Oisín O’Scanaill, from Cork, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour, used the Paediatric Oncology Outreach Nursing Service.

AT 11 months old, Oisín O’Scanaill was always a happy little chap. Now he’s a superhero as one of the Mercy Heroes for the month of October.

Mercy Heroes, taking place on October 22, aims to raise funds for the Mercy Kids and Teens Appeal to support the youngest patients at the Mercy Hospital.

Funds raised will support services like POONS (Paediatric Oncology Outreach Nursing Service).

When Oisín was going through treatment for his brain tumour, he availed of the POONS nursing service, the only one of its kind in Ireland that allows children with cancer to receive vital treatment in the comfort of their own homes, helping to cut back on hospital visits and provide support to families during such a difficult time.

Oisín O’Scanaill who was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
Oisín O’Scanaill who was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Oisin’s dad, Muirís, of Clondrohid, who is also dad to Caoimhe, aged 17, and Iarlaith, nearly five, recalls when his youngest son became seriously ill.

“Oisín was doing great and reaching all his milestones,” says Muirís.

“Then for no reason he started vomiting; no alarm bells rang, we didn’t think it was anything unusual.”

Nevertheless, Muirís and his wife Susan decided to get Oisín checked out by their GP, who sent them for tests to the Bons Secours Hospital in Cork.

“We thought that it might be a childhood thing, something like colic for instance,” says Muirís.

But it wasn’t that simple.

“Oisín, who is now three, had an ultra-sound at the hospital and a tumour was discovered at the base of his brain,” says Muirís.

 “When we were told it was absolutely devastating. There are no words to describe the shock it was to us.

“We had to get an ambulance up to Temple Street Hospital in Dublin, where Oisín had to undergo surgery to remove the tumour. It was the worst journey of our lives,” says Muirís.

“That was on a Thursday and Oisín had his surgery the following Tuesday. It was a long, complicated surgery that took from 8.30am until 5pm that evening. Susan and I stayed near the hospital after Oisín’s operation and I was up and down to Cork to the others, Susan stayed above with Oisín. Family and friends were great and they all rowed in to help us out,” says Muirís.

Little Oisín was a superhero; a great little trooper.

“He was a great patient,” says Muirís.

Oisín O’Scanaill in hospital.
Oisín O’Scanaill in hospital.

How was he after the long surgery?

“His hair had been shaved prior to the surgery, but we prepared for that.”

Oisín came home on August 31. But his ordeal wasn’t over.

“Temple Street was the first part of it,” explains Muirís.

“Oisín had to go to Crumlin Children’s Hospital on September 11 to start 28 rounds of chemotherapy; four treatments, seven times.

“Fortunately, he was able to have two out of the four treatments in the Mercy Hospital in Cork, that helped us massively.”

Travelling with a child all the way to Dublin from Cork for medical treatment can be difficult.

“It can be stressful,” says Muirís. “And it is hard on the child. Oisín wasn’t in pain but he had the general side effects from chemotherapy. For a small boy,it was very intense.”

Oisín was a trooper.

“He was so young, it went over his head,” says Muirís,

“But it was upsetting for us and very hard.”

The POONS nursing service rowed in to help the family out.

“The POONS were our life-savers,” says Muirís.

“The nurse came from the Mercy Hospital every week to check the chemo line going into Oisín’s chest and to change it. Olga took his bloods as well and that saved us a hospital visit which lessened our stress levels.

“During Covid we wanted to avoid the hospital environment as much as possible as Oisín was open to infection. The POONS nursing service took us out of that situation and that meant everything to us,” says Muirís.

“It was great for the other two children as well.”

Olga became close to the family.

“Olga was so caring, she became our friend,” says Muirís.

“If we ever had a query we only had to ask her, we were always prepared for everything.

“Olga’s knowledge was just amazing. She was a godsend when Oisín was going through his treatment. She was there for all the family. Olga was always able to put our minds at ease. Oisín loved her.”

Now that Oisín has bounced back to good health, he has started pre-school and he is loving it.

“He came through a hard time and he came out the other side,” says Muirís. “For somebody so small, it was really terrifying for us; it really was.”

Reassurance was at hand from the POONS nursing service and from the medical staff at the Mercy Hospital.

“Oisín had to go the Mercy Hospital for blood transfusions four times and the staff there are wonderful,” says Muirís.

Oisín O’Scanaill is one of the Mercy Hospital Heroes in their annual fundraising drive.
Oisín O’Scanaill is one of the Mercy Hospital Heroes in their annual fundraising drive.

Oisín is a typical boy.

“He is very outdoorsy,” adds Muirís.

“And he is in good health now and he still has regular check-ups.”

What does he like to play with?

“Anything that is destructive and not clean and tidy!” says Muirís, laughing.

He is everyone’s pet.

“His grandparents are so relieved he came through his illness and that he is so good,” says Muirís.

Oisín got the best help.

“He got the best medical care and the POONS nursing service is such a great service. It is the last service you want but they are always there when you need it.”

MORE ABOUT MERCY HEROES

The Mercy University Hospital Foundation is encouraging people to support this year’s campaign to raise much-needed funds for The Mercy Kids & Teens Appeal.

Funds raised will especially support the unique POONS service. POONS stands for Paediatric Oncology Outreach Nursing Service and allows children with cancer to receive treatment from the comfort of their own home. The only service of its kind in Ireland, it has provided immeasurable support for Cork’s youngest patients and their families over the last number of years.

Covid-19 has now made this home-based service even more vital. This crucial service covers a large geographical area from Youghal to Bantry and Mitchelstown to Kinsale as well as surrounding counties so that all children have access to this service regardless of their location.

Donations can be made online, see: www.mercyhospitalfoundation.

So how can people fundraise? By joining forces with family, friends or colleagues to host a virtual or in-person coffee morning. Schools around the country are also being encouraged to join in the fun by holding a Dress up/Dress down day to support these young heroes.

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