I ran 250km, within 2km of my home to raise funds for hospitals in need

IRENE HALPIN LONG chats to another Cork woman who ran 5km a day, within 2km of her home, for the Surgeon Noonan Society
I ran 250km, within 2km of my home to raise funds for hospitals in need

22 year old fourth year medical student, Alison O’Shea, ran 5km a day within 2km of her home in Rochestown during the Covid-19 lockdown in an attempt to raise money for Surgeon Noonan.

She did this over 50 days, clocking up a total of 250km and raising €1,200.

Established over 40 years ago, Surgeon Noonan is a registered charity, run voluntarily by 4th year medical students from University College Cork. Each year, volunteers aim to raise over €100,000. Money raised goes directly towards underfunded rural hospitals in Sub- Saharan Africa.

Every June, over 40 students travel to hospitals in Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Ghana, and Zambia bringing much needed medical supplies, such as basic analgesics, antibiotics, vitamins, sterile medical equipment and financial aid with them. The charitable funding provided to these hospitals not only serves as maintenance funding, but also subsidises larger projects. Examples of developments already undertaken with the aid of the Surgeon Noonan Society include the building of new wards, a surgical unit and the introduction of a HIV Outreach Clinic.

Students work voluntarily in the hospitals for four weeks. Students cover all travel expenses themselves so that 100% of funds raised goes towards beneficiary hospitals in Sub- Saharan Africa.

The closure of University College Cork on March 12, along with social distancing restrictions, meant that Surgeon Noonan medical students had to cancel fund-raising events.

Alison decided to continue fund-raising by means of an online fund=raiser which she could carry out safely within 2km radius of her home.

She ran 250km in 50 days, since the lockdown began and has raised a great sum to date.

Running every day gives her “a sense of normality” in these unprecedented times. She varies her route by running down the Rochestown road or “tackling Maryborough hill if I am feeling brave”.

Alison was due to travel to Nkhoma Mission Hospital in Malawi this June. The trip has been cancelled due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

She had been looking forward to it and was disappointed that plans for her and over 40 other UCC medical students to work in African hospitals this summer would have to be postponed. Even though she was not going to work in Malawi this summer, Alison felt compelled to continue fund-raising efforts.

Alison O'Shea.
Alison O'Shea.

She said: “Fund=raising is more important now more than ever. Surgeon Noonan has been affiliated with these partner hospitals for many years and we have developed a great relationship with their staff.

“These hospitals and communities kindly welcome UCC students every year, helping us learn and experience different cultures.

“The thought of the devastation the virus could cause to our friends is heart-breaking.

“These hospitals in Africa are so vulnerable, even before a global pandemic. Even though we cannot travel out this summer, we still feel connected to them by sending out the money we have raised, and it’s fantastic to hear how they plan on utilising the funding.” Alison decided to study medicine because she wanted to “give back to the community”.

She adds: “The anatomy and physiology we touched on in Biology in secondary school were my favourite aspects of the subject.

“With Medicine, there is no limit to the amount you can learn and the skills required to be a good doctor are constantly evolving.” Alison will graduate from University College Cork in May, 2021.

She said: “I’m still not sure what medical path I’d like to go down or what direction my career will take. At the moment, Paediatrics, Renal Medicine and Haematology interest me. Luckily, it’s still early days for me and I have many years to decide.” Many people are sharing posts on social media, highlighting their participation in 5km runs for charity at the moment which Alison says “is fantastic to see, both for very deserving charities at home and abroad.” She has seen fantastic support during her fund-raising, virtually, via social media and text messages from her friends and classmates as she pounded the pavements around her home.

She said: “I have my fellow classmates supporting me and encouraging me each week.” For more information regarding Surgeon Noonan or to donate to the cause , visit; https://surgeonnoonansoc.ucc.ie UCC Surgeon Noonan Society - Facebook surgeonnoonan - Instagram @SurgeonNoonan - Twitter

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