A BROTHER and sister who bonded through life-threatening illnesses will leave the stress of hospitals behind for the adventure of a lifetime in Disneyland Paris today.
Christian, 14, and Olivia Daly, 9, have both showed exceptional bravery in the face of devastating illnesses.
The duo from Carrigaline are among more than 50 remarkable children jetting off to Disneyland at 1.30pm today.
Cork City Hospitals Children’s Club organises the annual trip to acknowledge the courage of kids who have battled illness or trauma.
Their mother, Susan Ahern Daly, spoke of the struggles for her family.
“Olivia was a healthy baby so we never thought this would happen us twice,” she said, referring to her daughter’s fight with liver disease.
Prior to that, Susan had nursed her son Christian through nine brain surgeries.
“Christian was born with hydrocephalus — a build-up of fluid on the brain,” Susan explained.
“I went from being overjoyed for five months of ignorant bliss to spending the remainder of my pregnancy in hospital.
“Even though we had time to prepare, we still didn’t know what was really facing us. Trying to prepare for a baby you know won’t be well is extremely difficult. I was afraid for Christian and what he might have to go through.
“He had to go through his first surgery at just six weeks old. He had a shunt fitted in this brain. Shunts have a tendency to malfunction so in all, he’s gone through a total of nine surgeries in his lifetime.”
Susan never imagined she would be helping her second child battle a life-threatening illness.
“She was the healthy baby that I didn’t have to worry about,” she said.
“However, at four years old she began getting loads of nose bleeds and tummy bugs. Olivia woke up screaming one night. When we went into her room she was vomiting blood. It turned out she had esophageal varices, blocking the normal blood flow to the liver.”
Surgeons had to remove 85% of Olivia’s liver to save her.
Now, after eight surgeries — three of which were major — Olivia has shown more strength than most adults.
“You’re never going to be able to protect your kids from everything,” said Susan.
“If I was with them in Disneyland, I would probably be checking every ride and being a bit over-protective.
“Now, they can throw caution to the wind.”
She is glad Christian and Olivia will be able to meet with other children who have experienced similar difficulties.
“It will be good for them to meet with other children going through things kids shouldn’t have to go through. It will help them find a balance and open their eyes.”
Even though Christian and Olivia’s parents might not be accompanying them to Disneyland, they still feel just as lucky.
“Colin and I count ourselves as fortunate. We still have our beautiful children. There are people out there who aren’t as fortunate as us so we’ll always feel lucky.”