THE father of a seriously ill teen undergoing life-saving surgery in the US today has called for the HSE to be “shut down”.
Paul McMahon said the current Irish health system failed his son Aaron after he was diagnosed with chordoma, a rare bone cancer of the skull in 2017.
Aaron McMahon, aged 17 from Shanagarry, Co Cork, has already endured nine weeks of proton treatment in Germany last year after it was revealed that his grave diagnosis was terminal.
He then relocated to Pittsburgh with his family on June 9 in order to undergo surgery in the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) today.
The operation is being made possible by an online Go Fund Me page which raised more than €142,000 for Aaron’s surgery.
“We were told that if there was an option out there for Aaron to be surgically treated the HSE would fund it, but this hasn’t happened,” Aaron’s father Paul said.
“All we received was a letter addressed to Aaron stating that his application had been declined.
“He was told this was because the HSE’s Treatment Abroad Scheme is restricted to treatments within the European Union.”
It was Paul’s other son, Aaron’s brother Andrew, who influenced their decision to go public with Aaron’s story.
“The HSE cost us our privacy. We didn’t have the luxury of waiting,” said Paul.
“This doesn’t take away from the gratitude we have for the people of Cork who have been so kind and generous. If it wasn’t for the public, Aaron would never have made it to America.”
“The HSE, on the other hand, offered no sympathy, no empathy, just palliative care. We weren’t even given a referral.
“Aaron is not the only kid out there who the HSE has failed.”
Paul hopes that Aaron’s story might one day bring about change.
“The Irish people have spoken on behalf of one child. When Aaron comes home he will change the system.
“It’s not our generation, but Aaron’s that is going to make these changes.
“I know that when Aaron comes home he will do his utmost to bring about change to prevent other kids suffering like he did.
“He has already come up with an idea to use some of the funds raised for him to offer support to other young people in similar situations.”
Aaron’s mother Gail explained that their concerns with the HSE date back to the start of his illness.
“If anything is to change, the HSE need to stop hiding behind paperwork,” she said.
She recalled a time when Aaron almost lost hope.
“I almost crashed the car while we were going through the tunnel when Aaron starting telling me the plans he had for his cremation.
“At times trying to adjust to the fact that Aaron was terminally ill felt like I was trying to find my way to the surface of a swimming pool. Just the thought of it makes you struggle to breathe.”
“There needs to be a complete revolt against the current system if anything is to change.”
She voiced her fears around returning home, adding: “If Aaron could stay I’d stay with him. There is no aftercare for him at home and that terrifies me. I’m scared to go home.”
Despite their difficult situation Aaron and his family still do their best to live life to the full.
“Leading up to the operation Aaron has around three or four hours a day he can leave the hospital.
“We have visited everywhere from museums and water parks to make the most of every day we have here.”
The family also extended their gratitude to the Gavin Glynn Foundation, an organisation which helps children fighting cancer to travel overseas for treatment.
A new single penned by Aaron about his journey to date called ‘One in a Million’ performed by the band Goldfish Syndrome is currently available to download on iTunes.