Open heart surgery at just four months old... now  Cork boy is thriving

An Ovens boy is inspiring people to be brave this year, in aid of a cause that’s close to his family’s heart, writes CHRIS DUNNE
Open heart surgery at just four months old... now  Cork boy is thriving

Patrick Donohue, who is an ambassador for Dare to be Brave.

An Ovens boy is inspiring people to be brave this year, in aid of a cause that’s close to his family’s heart, writes CHRIS DUNNE

TWO-year-old Patrick Donohoe, from Ovens is a brave young man.

A Crumlin patient, Patrick was on hand with his brothers, James, aged nine, Sean, who is nearly eight, and Michael, aged three, to launch an exciting series of events, which include a 13,000ft skydive, an abseil from Croke Park’s Hogan Stand, a 24-hour wilderness survival challenge and ‘Hell and Back’.

The events are part of the ‘Dare to be Brave’ adventure series which will raise vital funds to support sick children and their families in Children’s Health Ireland (CHI), at Crumlin, Temple Street, Tallaght and Connolly.

Patrick’s mother, Michelle, is planning on taking the plunge.

“I will definitely get involved,” Michelle says.

What challenge will she take on for CHI?

“I’m not sure yet - but it will be one of the less challenging ones!”

Crumlin is close to the family’s hearts.

“We built up a great relationship with Crumlin; we are very keen to give the hospital all the support we can. Crumlin is a great place,” says Michelle.

“Patrick is under the care of Dr Orla Franklin, his cardiologist in Crumlin. Dr Darragh Finn is his local Consultant Paediatrician in CUH and he links in with Crumlin. Patrick is a patient of CHI in Crumlin.”

Patrick Donohoe launches Children's Health Foundation's Dare to be Brave adventure series.
Patrick Donohoe launches Children's Health Foundation's Dare to be Brave adventure series.

Patrick was always in good hands.

“Patrick got great care,” says Michelle. “Everyone has a connection with the children’s hospital. It touches a lot of hearts.”

Patrick, a child with Down syndrome, was born on February 1, 2021, in CUMH. Michelle’s obstetrician was Professor John Higgins.

He had an underlying heart condition.

“He looked perfect,” says Michelle. “Dad had a look in.

“It’s funny but I think newborn babies look like their dads at first, then they change, and their looks become more balanced,” Michelle adds.

“Now Patrick’s traits resemble both of us and his brothers.”

Michelle looks back to when Patrick was born.

“He was born with an underlying heart condition that required open-heart surgery in the first six months of his life.”

How did Michelle and her husband, Brian, feel about that?

“We took things as they came, we didn’t dwell on things. We wanted to get him safely well step-by-step,” says Michelle.

“The cardiologist and the surgeon assessed him step-by-step. Our journey with Crumlin started well before Patrick’s arrival. By the time Patrick was born we had met with his cardiologist, Dr Orla Franklin, and her team a number of times. The nursing specialist arranged for us to visit Crumlin before Patrick’s birth. This allowed us to get to know the hospital, and in particular, The Heart Centre, where we would be spending some time over the coming months.”

Patrick’s medical team were Dublin-based.

“We had a close relationship with the team and with Crumlin, a centre of excellence,” says Michelle.

“Post-Covid, there was a lot of contact by phone.

“Patrick was four weeks old when he had his first appointment. After that, he checked in every month with his team in Dublin.

“The expectation was that he would have heart surgery around the 4-6 month mark. He had to be the right weight and he was assessed to determine at what stage he would be ready for surgery.”

Patrick had his open heart surgery at just four months old, on May 24, 2021, and after a short stay, he was en route back to Cork to his big brothers, James, Sean, and Michael.

Were Michelle and Brian worried about their baby undergoing major heart surgery?

“There was an element of worry,” admits Michelle.

“It was major surgery. We realised the surgery wasn’t by choice; it was a necessity.

“It was in Patrick’s interest to have the surgery. We had full confidence in his team.”

Patrick bounced back to full health.

“He recovered excellently,” says Michelle. “Patrick hasn’t looked back since. He is in great health.”

The boy makes his mark at home.

“He is the life and soul of the household,” says Michelle.

“He mucks into the middle of them all. He bosses the others. Patrick gets away with most things because he is the youngest!”

Michelle and Brian are full of praise for Crumlin Hospital.

“We can’t speak highly enough of Crumlin Hospital and the work that they do,” says Michelle.

“When you have personal experience, you appreciate the great work.

“Post-surgery, it really touched me to see the amount of people touched by CHI hospitals, Crumlin, Tallaght and Temple Street,” adds Michelle.

“Ambassadors are important for the hospital, and it is important for them to have real-live people behind the ‘Dare to be Brave’ campaign.

“CHI came to us and said they’d love Patrick to be a patient ambassador for the campaign. It’s all about encouraging people of all abilities to get out there and take on challenges for a worthy charity and raising much-needed funds for a very special place.”

The Donohoes want to repay the kindnes.

“It is the only way to give back and support the hospitals. We’ll do what we can to give back.”

Patrick’s heart operation was a great success.

“He has annual checks and that’s it. We never looked back. We have no reason to look back.”

Everyone’s health is important.

“A personal experience puts things in perspective,” says Michelle.

“You get to see other people’s scenarios when you spend time with them.

“Then you appreciate how important it is to help and support patients going through their own journeys. It is a humbling experience,” adds Michelle.

The network of support at Crumlin is such a great help for families.

“All the people at the hospital are incredible,” says Michelle.

“From the doctors, the nurses, the canteen people, the cleaners; the work they do is incredible. The do their work with care and grace. They are a very special group of people. So we are very keen to put the fundraising campaign out there and give people the opportunity or the chance to take on big or small challenges.

“The ‘Dare to be Brave’ challenge is a great way to raise funds for the CHI facilities. People need those vital services that the hospital provide now and in the future. It is down to all of us to support the charity.”

Michelle, taking on a challenge herself, is roping other people in too.

“I am down for two challenges,” she says.

“Family and friends are getting involved too.”


The bravery Patrick and his family showed was incredible and that’s why the Children’s Health Foundation is daring you to be brave this summer to raise vital, life-saving funds for more children like Patrick.

‘Dare to be Brave’ events will take place between June and September and will provide participants with exciting once-in-a-lifetime experiences

  • June 29 and 30 - Skydive Challenge, Edenderry Co Offaly.
  • July 14 - 24 Hour Wilderness Survival Challenge, Glendalough Co. Wicklow
  • August 25 and September 16 - Croke Park Abseil Challenge.
  • September 30 - Hell and Back- Kilruddery House, Bray, Co. Wicklow.

Participants can sign up to take part in all challenges or they can choose which of he challenges they want to take on throughout the summer.

Additionally, people can take on the challenges by themselves, or they can take part as a member of a team.

Why not dare your friends or colleagues to be brave with you?


Each year, hundreds of thousands of sick children cross the doors of CHI hospitals and urgent care centres at Crumlin, Temple Street, Tallaght and Connolly. For these children, the hospital can be a scary place, especially when they are unwell.

Every day, the children in CHI hospitals and urgent care centres summon an incredible amount of bravery and Children’s Health Foundation is committed to supporting them and the hospitals and urgent care centres to continue their vital and life-saving work.

Hugh Kane, Interim Chief Executive at Children’s Foundation, said: “Taking part in our ‘Dare to be Brave’ adventure series is a fantastic way to raise funds for sick children, whilst enjoying unique once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

“We see brave children every day receive treatment in CHI hospitals and urgent care centres. By daring to be brave and taking part in this campaign, you will be supporting sick children, and I have no doubt your bravery will help save lives.”

For more information, visit or email

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