THE staff at Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin “are absolutely amazing. They go above and beyond for everyone who walks through their doors.” Those are the words of Aishling Higgins, mother of Zac .
The three-year-old was seriously injured in March, 2019, after being struck by a car in a hit and run incident at Castle Meadows, off Skehard Road, Cork.
He was only two at the time and suffered a broken collarbone, broken shoulder blade, fractured hip, collapsed lung, a bleed on the brain and a serious brain injury.
Because of the nature of Zac’s injuries, he was transferred from Cork University Hospital to Temple Street Children’s hospital. He spent 12 days in its Intensive Care Unit and a further eight weeks on a children’s ward.
Zac’s parents, Aishling and Paul, were continuously by Zac’s side as they watched their toddler fight for his life.
“It is every parent’s worst nightmare,” said Aishling. “Only 10% of the people with the brain injury that Zac had come out of a coma. It was touch and go with Zac. We didn’t know if he would make it.”
Both Aisling and Paul were “completely traumatised”. But from the moment Zac and his parents arrived at Temple Street, they felt supported by the hospital staff, who explained the serious nature of their son’s injuries and how they were going to treat him.
“When Paul and I arrived at Temple Street Children’s Hospital with Zac, it was the middle of the night. We met a lovely nurse. She brought us into a little room and brought us tea and toast. She explained everything to us. We saw one of the doctors after Zac had a CT scan. The medical staff at Temple Street explained everything that was happening to our son. All they wanted to do was help. They couldn’t do enough for us as a family,” said Aishling.
From porters to nurses, canteen staff to the consultants, Aishling has nothing but praise for each member of staff at Temple Street.
John Doyle is the head porter at Temple Street and has worked there for over 40 years.
“He was so helpful,” said Aishling. “When it came to helping us to navigate our way around the Temple Street area, if we needed to get a bus or a taxi, he always helped us out. He was always smiling and so friendly. He’d always ask how Zac was doing and ask how we were.”
Aishling particularly praised the nurses on the ward and the intensive care nurses who looked after Zac, saying, “[they] couldn’t have done any more to help us. They listened to us. All they wanted to do was help.”
Zac has two older siblings, Max, aged seven, and Belle, aged four. Paul and Aishling brought them to Temple Street to see Zac once he was off life-support and out of intensive care.
Because Zac was in ICU for 12 days, the siblings were apart during that time and this took its toll on both Max and Belle.
“They didn’t really know where Zac was,” said Aishling.
“We told them that Zac was in hospital. We spoke one day to Max on the phone from Temple Street and he asked us to put Zac on the phone so he could check he was alive, but Zac wasn’t able to talk.”
The staff at Temple Street were acutely aware that siblings of sick children also need care and support.
“All the nurses couldn’t do enough for Max and Belle when they came to visit Zac. They pulled out toys for them to play with. There is a fabulous playroom at Temple Street so when they got bored on the ward, they were able to play with the toys in the playroom.
“The staff were so friendly to Max and Belle and asked them how they were doing and said that they knew they were Zac’s brother and sister.”
The Temple Street Foundation is a charity that supports the vital life-saving work that is carried out at Temple Street Children’s hospital. Every day, hundreds of sick and injured children and their worried families walk through the doors of the hospital in need of top class medical care and support.
On Sunday, September 22, 150 staff from Tesco Cork are runningWomen’s Mini Marathon to raise funds for Temple Street Hospital. Tesco are the associate sponsor of the mini marathon for the second year. The staff from Cork were inspired by Zac and the amazing care and support that the young boy and his family received from the hospital.
Tesco has formed a charity partnership with Temple Street. Its staff and customers have raised €4.4 million for Temple Street since 2014. These funds have been used to help the children’s hospital purchase life-saving medical equipment for its patients.
As well as runningWomen’s Mini Marathon to raise funds for Temple Street, a group of Tesco stores in Cork selected to support The Zac Higgins Appeal in the Tesco Community Fund. Every eight weeks, each store donates money between three local causes in the community. Customers choose how the donations are allocated by placing a blue token each time they shop in one of three boxes, designated to a given cause. The Cork stores raised €2,546 for The Zac Higgins Appeal, to assist in Zac’s ongoing recovery.
Geraldine Casey, Director at Tesco, said: “We are extremely proud to see so many of our colleagues from our Cork and, indeed, right across the Munster region, taking part in the upcoming Cork mini marathon, in aid of our charity partner, Temple Street. Zac and his fellow ‘little heroes’ of Temple Street are a source of great inspiration for our colleagues, teamed with the incredible work of the hospital staff, which motivates our colleagues to get involved and work to raise these much needed funds for the purchase of hospital equipment.”
Now three years old, Zac has defied the odds. Nearly six months after he was seriously injured and close to death, he is making significant progress.
Aishling said, “He’s walking. He’s talking, not as well as he used to, but he is learning to communicate and converse with us again. Physically, he is doing fantastically well.
“Long-term, we don’t know whether he will have an intellectual disability. It’s too early to tell because he is so young. But, from where he was when he first went to Temple Street, he is doing unbelievably well.”
Zac will visit Temple Street this month and will remain as a patient going forward.
Aishling encourages the public to support the runners from Tesco who are taking part in The Echo Women’s Mini Marathon on Sunday, September 22.
“It’s a very deserving cause. Temple Street have worked wonders for our family. They work so hard for so many families. They go above and beyond. It’s a great hospital and I’d ask people to support the people who are running and fundraising.
“The children of our country are the future of our country. We need to look after our children, especially when they are sick or injured, so hospitals like Temple Street are vital. The work they do for our children is so important.”
Entries are still being received for this year’s mini marathon, which will be capped at 8,000. Register at https://theechominimarathon.ie/