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Nearly 300 Galway families avail of special facilities beside Children’s Hospital

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Connacht rugby player Jake Heenan, with Saoirse and Luke McEvoy and Ailbhe and Evan Canavan, promoting the Walk4Families 5k which takes place on Salthill Prom on Saturday week.

For 291 Galway families, the Ronald McDonald House beside Crumlin Children’s Hospital has been a home away from home during the most stressful period of their lives.

Grateful families who have availed of the facility since it opened 12 years ago are now fundraising to build a new €16m accommodation complex on the site of the new children’s hospital at St James’s Hospital, due to open in 2020.

The Donald family from Roscahill have lived in the Ronald McDonald House for five months over the past three years since twins Cate and Ciarán were born.

Cate was diagnosed at 20 weeks’ gestation with complex congenital heart disease. At 30 weeks, mum Caroline had to rent an apartment in Dublin to ensure she would deliver in Dublin where more specialised medics were based.

A week after Cate was born at 36 weeks in July 2013, she underwent open heart surgery, weighing just 4.5 pounds.

Ciarán had a few problems and was kept in the High Dependency Unit in the Coombe, while Cate was born in the Coombe but transferred immediately to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin.

“We moved into the Ronald McDonald House with our newborn baby and took it in turns to go from the house to the ward which was a stone’s throw away. My baby was dying and you didn’t want to leave the hospital grounds, but at the same time you have to mind the other kids. We had no friends or family in Dublin – it was an absolutely crucial service,” recalls Caroline.

“We were back in again for a second open heart major surgery the following January. At night you’re so tired after spending 17/18 hours on the ward, so emotionally drained as all the kids in there are very, very sick.

“You’re shook to the core. Here was a place you’d come back to where you’d have a cooked dinner, you could get the laundry done, you wouldn’t have to go off grocery shopping.”

Staff and volunteers go out of their way to offer support to stressed families, organising special occasion evenings such as candlelit dinners on Valentine’s Day and beauty therapies on Mother’s Day to give a little boost.

An outdoor and indoor play area allows siblings to retain some sort of normalcy during the hospital stay while families have access to a communal lounge and dining room.

Cate returned for her third major surgery this year, with some more minor procedures earmarked for the near future. She attends University Hospital Galway once a week with regular check-ups in Dublin. Eventually she will have to undergo a heart transplant.

Baby Patrick was born within a year of the twins so it’s been all hands on deck for the Donalds.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

Connacht Tribune

Violent incident in Tuam leaves seven hospitalised

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Gardaí are investigating after an incident in Tuam yesterday left seven people injured.

A violent altercation broke out between a large group at the cemetery in Tuam at about 4pm yesterday.

Around 30 Gardaí responded to the incident at the cemetery on the Athenry Road in Tuam, which broke out following two funerals in the area.

Gardaí supported by members from the wider North Western Region and the Regional Armed Support Unit had to physically intervene between parties and disperse those present.

Five males and two females were injured during the course of the incident and were taken to University Hospital Galway with non-life threatening injuries.

A 16-year-old boy was arrested at the scene, as he tried to flee in possession of a knife.

He was taken to Tuam Garda Station and has since been released. A file is being prepared for the Juvenile Liaison Officer.

Gardaí are appealing for any witnesses to this incident or for anyone with any information to contact Tuam Garda Station .

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Connacht Tribune

Siblings find each other – and their Connemara roots – after 80 years

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Reunited...Pat and Miceál McKeown outside their mother Síle’s birthplace in Carna.

By Erin Gibbons

A family separated for over 80 years was reunited at the end of an emotional journey in Connemara last weekend – thanks to DNA testing and the expert help of heritage researchers.

Pat McKeown, who lives in Staffordshire in the UK, is the daughter of Síle Gorham from Roisín Na Mainiach, Carna – but she was given up for adoption and reared for a time in a Belfast Mother and Baby Home.

Now, at the age of 81, she found her roots – returning to her mother’s native place for the first time last weekend, in the company of her long-lost brother Micheál.

It was an emotional end to a lifelong search for her roots that even led her to hire a private detective to try and locate her family and to discover her name.

All of this proved unsuccessful – and she had effectively given up her search when she was contacted unexpectedly by a man called Miceál McKeown, who turned out to be her brother.

Micheál – an artist and sculptor – and his daughter Orla had made the connection through DNA testing, after Miceál too had set out to discover more about his own roots.

That revealed that Síle Gorham had married Michael McKeown in 1939, and Síle went on to have three more children named Áine, Séan and Miceál.

Pat visited Connemara last weekend for the first time to learn about her mother Síle and the Connemara ancestry which she feels was robbed from her for her entire 81 years.

She was accompanied by Miceál, his wife Rosemary, daughter Orla and son-in-law Rueben Keogh.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Student leader’s stalker hell

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Róisín Nic Lochlainn

The President of NUI Galway Students’ Union has spoken out about her terrifying harassment ordeal at the hands of a 17-year-old stalker who left her fearing for her safety.

Róisín Nic Lochlainn told the Connacht Tribune that she felt ‘such relief’ when the news came out last week that the young man who spent months putting her through hell online had been brought before the courts in Dublin for a similar campaign of harassment against a BBC NI journalist.

The 17-year-old from Malahide, Co Dublin, who cannot be named because of his age, pleaded guilty to the harassment of reporter Aileen Moynagh at Dublin Children’s Court last week.

It transpired he had used up to 40 aliases to send Ms Moynagh abusive and threatening messages on various social media platforms and by email. It is understood that the teen has a compulsive disorder and Asperger’s.

Ms Nic Lochlainn said she had sleepless nights and sought the help of Gardaí and the university’s chaplaincy service amid a slew of threats directed at her over much of 2020.

“It was actually terrifying. I know it might sound stupid, but I would check the bathroom in my room every night before going to bed. It was keeping me up at night,” she said.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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