Cost of living crisis takes unbearable toll on families of children with Leukaemia

Cost of living crisis takes unbearable toll on families of children with Leukaemia

THE ECHO SARAH HORGAN 15/09/2022.

A FORMER consultant who has dedicated his retirement to helping children with leukaemia has issued an urgent call for action during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Dr Michael Madden- who worked for decades as a consultant haematologist in the Mercy University Hospital and now heads the Children’s Leukaemia Association in Cork- spoke of how inflation and the cost-of-living crisis is taking an unbearable toll on families. The charity is hearing from a considerable number of people who are turning to the organisation to fund non-medical expenses such as petrol and physiotherapy in the community.

The Children's Leukaemia Association Chairman is calling on the Government to consider offering grants to parents unable to afford expensive trips to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin.

“Treatment for leukaemia involves a lot of travelling,” he said. “This can often go on for two years. A lot is done as day-care, which is good in some ways, but the facilities for overnight stays are limited. Unless you have an open cheque book it’s extremely difficult to cope.” 

He emphasised that more families are struggling financially than ever before.

“The treatment burden is challenging for the children, but the financial implications at this time are also enormous. Nowadays you have two spouses working but usually one person will have to give up their career to be with the child. It is placing another burden on families at a time in their lives when they are already struggling.”

 The Cork man said that while leukaemia treatments have come a long way, families continue to face an uphill battle.

“When I started in medicine as an undergraduate back in the late sixties old text books stated that leukaemia in children was almost invariably fatal. However, things started to change in the seventies with the introduction of steroid and new drugs. That was when children started to be cured. That’s increased to the extent that 80pc or 90pc of children are now cured with treatment. Nonetheless there are still other challenges for families.” 

Certain service users of the charity, Dr Madden explained, are unable to benefit from the support of family.

“There is a diverse element to Cork now with people coming to live here from abroad. This adds more challenges for people whose family live overseas and cannot support them during such a difficult time.” 

He reiterated the need for state support to benefit families in crisis.

“We would like to see support from the state for the families of children who require a lot of back and forth to hospitals. Almost 95pc of medical treatments are funded by the state but this is an area the state doesn’t provide for. We are giving on an ongoing basis. For children who require transplants we offer extra financial aid. Children are very resilient. They can bounce back but these experiences can take their toll on families.”

 Dr Madden described how volunteers need to take a professional approach when liaising with families.

“It was very hard to give up,” he said of his former role at the Mercy University Hospital. “Certain parts I didn’t mind leaving behind such as being on call. It affects your whole family. When I got woken up my wife was woken up too. Although stressful, it was very satisfying work. It can be difficult but you can’t grieve for the children. If you allow the job affect you on an emotional level you won’t last.” 

The Children’s Leukaemia Association, which is situated on French’s Quay, also provides home-from-home accommodation situation through a house located in Wilton. Fidelma House was purchased through the proceeds of the Echo Christmas Appeal held back in 2007. Many families continue to use the facility, particularly those who travel long distances for treatment. To find out more or to access support call 021 4949801 or 087 9772495 or email info@cla.ie. Donations can also be made through to the website on www.cla.ie

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