BARRETSTOWN has launched a Christmas appeal to help fund the charity’s free camps and programmes for seriously ill children in Ireland.
Thousands of children have benefitted from the work of Barretstown, including nine-year-old Cork native Darragh Nolan.
“Darragh was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2019, at age six.
“It was a big shock to our system. Our world was turned upside down,” said Darragh’s father, Karl Nolan.
“He had a few visits to hospital for pains in his arms and chest and the worst possible outcome that we were prepared for manifested.”
Speaking with The Echo, Mr Nolan and Darragh’s mother, Paola Denis, said that Barretstown has played a huge part in their lives since.
“It’s all very fine for him to get his treatment every day, but we had to put a lot of care into his personal wellbeing as well. It made a big dent in his childhood,” Mr Nolan said.
“At the lowest point of his treatment, he started asking questions. In terms of morale, he was very low. He didn’t know any other kids that were sick. He couldn’t go to school for nine months,” Ms Denis said.
“When he went to Barretstown, he saw a completely new world. It opened his eyes that he wasn’t the only one that was sick and it really boosted his confidence.”
Attending Barretstown’s camps was also a boost for Darragh’s parents.
“We took a lot of confidence out of meeting children who were on their way to recovery. It’s really encouraging and it helps you see a way out,” Mr Nolan said.
When Darragh returned to school in Rochestown Educate Together, some members of Barretstown’s outreach programme even came to the school to provide a puppet show explaining Darragh’s medical condition to his classmates.
“It just made it all easier. It’s such a magical place. They completely exceed any expectations you might have. The support structures they have in place for families are just above and beyond,” Mr Nolan said.
The children’s leukaemia unit in the Mercy Hospital in Cork has also been a lifeline for the family in the past two years.
“They have been amazing. Our lives would be so different if we had to go to Dublin all the time,” said Ms Denis.
“We get home support as well and we’re the only county that gets that.
“Darragh pretty much has a bed with his name on it in the Mercy. They’re a second family there.”
Though the first year after Darragh’s diagnosis was “hell”, the family is now in the maintenance phase of treatment.
Darragh is also getting used to his new fame as a Barretstown ambassador and is contemplating the future of his career as a Youtube star.
“He’s delighted. He’s so popular in school and they see him as a hero,” said Mr Nolan.
“He’s on track. Our spirits and our hopes are all lifted, because his numbers are on course and we’re hoping he’ll be ringing the end-of-treatment bell in Crumlin next September.”
- To donate, see www.barretstown.org and www.mercyhospitalfoundation.ie.