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Connacht Tribune

Mum’s plea: ‘Please help save my life’

Denise McNamara



A 40-year-old Ballinasloe mother has launched a public appeal for donations to undergo immunotherapy as a last-ditch attempt to save her life.

Primary school teacher Audrey Morgan Kindregan was first diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2011. She underwent a radical hysterectomy and internal radiation or brachytherapy but the cancer returned over two years later.

She was treated with a grueling course of chemotherapy, radiation and brachytherapy. By 2016 she learned the disease had struck yet again when she noticed abnormal bleeding. This time she had reached the limit of radiation and chemo so her medical team had no choice but to go down a radical surgical route.

The pelvic exenteration surgery involved removing all female reproductive organs, in addition to her bladder, urethra and all tissue in the pelvic cavity and necessitated her having a urostomy, which allows urine to exit the body via a stoma in the stomach.

Recovery from the life-changing operation was slow and complicated as Audrey was hit with many complications, including kidney blockages and lymphedema

Last May she received the dreaded news that two cancer tumours and cancer spots had been detected.

“I just couldn’t believe it. My family couldn’t believe it and my poor son was terribly shocked and affected by this traumatizing news. My heart went out to Oisin, my poor boy who has seen enough cancer in a small few years to last him a lifetime. My options at this stage were limited to one – palliative chemotherapy.”

After one session she decided against continuing the chemo due to its harsh effects on her already depleted immune system. She feels she has no option but to undergo an immunotherapy treatment called Pembrolizumab.

“Immunotherapy is a ground-breaking way of treating cancer because unlike chemotherapy it doesn’t spread through the body like poison killing both good and bad cells. Instead, it works with your immune system in building an immunity to fight against cancer. Researchers feel that the future of the fight against cancer lies in immunotherapy.”

Unlike in the USA, immunotherapy is not yet licensed in Ireland for cervical cancer patients so the HSE are extremely reluctant to fund it. There is no current clinical trial here.

“Essentially my hands are tied with regard to accessing the drug,” Audrey reflects.

A fortnight ago she launched a plea on a crowd funding website for help in paying for immunotherapy, which costs in the region of €8,500 per session and is carried out once every three weeks.

Since the diagnosis, she has been forced to take long leaves of absence from her teaching job at Scoil an Chroí Naofa in Ballinasloe. Her husband Shane is an aircraft maintenance engineer who had to transfer from Galway Airport to Dublin Airport when the former closed down in 2013. He lives in Dublin during the week returning at weekends to be with Audrey and their son Oisin, 12, at their home in Ballymacward.

“It’s far from ideal but just because a person gets cancer, doesn’t mean the bills stop coming through the door. In actual fact they increase your monthly family costs through the addition of medical costs, medication, therapeutic equipment, travel to appointments, childcare for Oisin and the list goes on. I have been receiving no pay for the most part of my struggle,” she reveals.

“This is a very difficult task for me to ask people to donate to a fund in a bid to save my life.”

So far €55,000 has been raised in under a fortnight. She has set a target of €150,000.

“The way the page took off has me in awe. People have been so kind with their love, their words, their time and their money. I’m overwhelmed when I look at the page,” she admits.

Audrey has just spent two weeks in University Hospital Galway and has been transferred to St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin under the care of a new consultant who is willing to prescribe the drug privately.

“As soon as my situation improves they will start the immunotherapy – hopefully this week and I’ll have my first dose over by the time I’m leaving St Vincent’s Hospital. The treatment goes on indefinitely.

“I had a really bad weekend and nobody thought I’d see the opportunity to get any immunotherapy but I’ve a fight in me.”

■ Donations can be made on gofundme.

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Connacht Tribune

Student nurses face all the risk – for no reward

Dara Bradley



Working on the children’s ward of a busy hospital during a global pandemic is no joke; less funny still when you’re not getting paid for your toil.

All the risk and none of the rewards of qualified staff – that’s the lot of Edel Moore, a student nurse who is currently on placement at University Hospital Galway.

Edel, and hundreds of student nurses like her on placement in UHG and Portiuncula in Ballinasloe, want more than a round of applause and platitudes from Government.

“None of us want a pat on the back for struggling. We’d just like to be recognised,” she said.

“The Government are full-time talking about front-line workers, and they want to give them a ‘clap hands’. Then you see Junior Ministers getting massive raises. For what? What have they done for us, the student nurses, that they’re getting a €16,000 wage increase?

“We’ve put ourselves through a four year degree but all I’m worth is a clap? Thanks! It’s ridiculous. They say that front-line workers deserve all the help they can get but it just seems that the ones who are able to give us the help we need are not going to give us the help that we deserve.”

Edel Moore is a mature student originally from Westmeath but living in Leitir Mealláin in Connemara with her husband and three children.

A third year student nurse of NUIG, she is currently on placement at the paediatric ward at UHG.

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Connacht Tribune

Island museum gets the green light

Declan Tierney



An artist's impression of the proposed Inishbofin museum.

Work is expected to begin shortly on the construction of a museum on Inishbofin after planners gave the green light to the project.

The museum at Middlequarter is being developed by local historian and photographer Marie Coyne – and when completed, it will be home to items of historical significance from both Inishbofin and Inishark.

There is an existing museum on the island but it is too small to house the amount of artefacts, photographs and family histories that have been assembled over the years.

The new building will also include a photographic exhibition room, restoration workshop along with a gift shop and coffee dock. It is proposed that the new 3,400 square feet museum will be built on a site at the rear of Ms Coyne’s home.

Eamon Gavin of Eamon Gavin Architects based in Cornamona told the Connacht Tribune that this was an important project for the island and it was a welcome decision.

And he said that the green light would kickstart the process of conserving the vast and unique artefacts and archives built up over the years.

“As a practice, we have a long history of dealing with planning consultancy on unique rural sites in Connemara and the islands, therefore we fully understood how sensitive the proposed location of the project would be – the site is located in a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and National Heritage Area,” he said.

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Connacht Tribune

Tuam woman a picture of health a year after Covid crisis

Declan Tierney



Tuam's Kitty Farrell with her dog Lulu a year after her Covid diagnosis.

Last year was a Mother’s Day like no other for Kitty Farrell who spent it in the back of an ambulance being rushed to hospital with Covid – but the 80 year old Tuam woman can look forward to a more sedate celebration this time out….thankfully restored back to full health.

Kitty, from Ballygaddy Road, had developed a debilitating cough the previous week – and when she was admitted to UHG on Mother’s Day, she tested positive for the coronavirus despite a lack of symptoms.

The retired businesswoman spent the next nine days seriously ill in isolation – and all alone as her four children could not visit her.

“To be honest, I didn’t think I was going to come through it but I was so sick that at times, it didn’t really matter. But the thought of passing away in isolation made a bad situation even worse,” Kitty said at the time.

A year on, she is back to full health, and while she restricts her movements, Kitty told The Connacht Tribune that she is just happy to be alive and she spends her days ‘pottering about’ and looking forward to the arrival of family members.

“Even though I don’t particularly agree with the current lockdown because everyone should be responsible for their own behaviour, I am living a life of relative isolation at the moment,” she said.

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