A CORK woman who lost both of her sons to illness said a special Christmas event for sick children is still the highlight of her year.
Helen Wade from Tivoli was among a number of volunteers helping with the Cork City Hospitals Children’s Club event at Fota House yesterday.
The charity rewards kids who have been through illness or trauma with a Christmas party every year. Helen’s sons Alan and Brian had been to every event until their untimely deaths.
Despite suffering from the rare bone marrow failure disorder, dyskeratosis congenita, and an unknown syndrome, Helen’s sons never complained.
The two boys were among the first kids to travel to Disneyland Paris with the Cork City Hospitals Children’s Club.
Despite her ongoing heartbreak, Helen continues to volunteer with the charity to help other kids.
“I don’t celebrate Christmas like I used to,” she said. “However, this is still the highlight of my year. I love to see the children so happy.”
She said the experience evokes memories of happier times.
“For these moments Alan and Brian forgot they were sick.”
Brian had looked forward to meeting Santa every year until he died at the age of 19.
“Even when Brian was 18 he still loved seeing him so much,” she said. “He had always been a lot different to Alan who enjoyed adult conversation and his own company.”
Helen had no idea the 2011 event would be Brian’s last Christmas.
“We didn’t know until a week before his death that Brian would pass away. He died from sepsis and pneumonia, the same complications we lost his brother from.
“Like every other year, Santa came to meet the children. We couldn’t believe it when he gifted him a tablet.
“Brian had tremors at that stage and was using a wheelchair.
“The tablet was great because it meant he could watch films in bed.
“It was a brilliant thing for Brian to have as he was so limited in what he could do,” said Helen.
For parents like Sarah and Alan Sorenson from Ballyvolane, the charity event was a light at the end of the tunnel.
“Our son Seán was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in October. When we first got the diagnosis we were emotional wrecks. Our life had been turned upside down.
“Now, we realise it’s just a different way of life. Seán is living a normal life and doing all the things he did before. The only difference is the carb counting and insulin.”
Mum of eight Sharon O’Donovan, from Courtmacsherry, has been attending the events with her children since her son Olan (14) was diagnosed with the cancer Burkitt lymphoma.
“He was receiving treatment for a year and luckily has now got the all-clear,” said Sharon. “He’s been to Disneyland with the charity and still attends hospital appointments.”
Dr Liz Barry is also a dedicated volunteer for the Cork City Hospitals Children’s Club.
“It’s amazing to see the sheer joy on the kids’ faces,” she said.
“These events are particularly great for children who might not otherwise get to see Santa. For example, there are a number of children who have just gone through a transplant and can’t go to see Santa in regular places for fear of picking up infections.”
- To find out more about the Cork City Hospitals Children’s Club, see https://www.facebook.com/corkchildrensclub/