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Two years waiting for chance of normal life

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A Tuam teenager’s two year wait for treatment for scoliosis may well have now compromised the benefits of any medical intervention…if and when it happens.

That’s according to Galway East Deputy Colm Keaveney, who has called on the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar to intervene and speed up surgery for fifteen year old Sophie O’Grady.

x2 Sophie O'Grady

Sophie O’Grady

Since the Tuam teen was added to the surgical waiting list in March 2014, her condition has deteriorated – and the Fianna Fail TD claimed it was now feared that some of her internal organs may be compromised.

“The frankly unacceptable waiting times have taken an emotional toil on Sophie and her family,” he said.

“She had been a student with an excellent record, but is now no longer able to attend school. There is a significant fear that any further delay in delivering Sophie’s treatment will impact on the effectiveness of the intervention.

“Her need for treatment is now urgent and it is not acceptable that Minister Varadkar should seek to hide behind the HSE Governance Act,” he added.

Sophie O’Grady was diagnosed with an 80 degree curvature of her spine in February 2014 and was recommended for surgery because of the severity of the illness.

Sophie and her mother Linda Watts eventually felt they had no option other than to take their fight for treatment to the steps of the Dail last May.

But even that simple day trip from Galway to Dublin left Sophie bed-ridden for several days from exhaustion and pain.

Her mother Linda has revealed the effect the interminable delay as had on her daughter.

“The emotional impact of having scoliosis is  every bit as distressing and damaging as the physical effects. The change we have seen in Sophie in the past year has been dramatic. The confident, cheerful and bubbly teenager is now a withdrawn, introverted and despondent version of the girl she used to be,” she said.

“The old Sophie is still in there somewhere, weighed down by worries about having major surgery, about her education being jeopardised, about not being able to sleep properly, not being able to climb the stairs without feeling short of breath, and about how her clothes all look crooked on her. Waiting month after month for that phone call,” the mother of five added.

“Sophie’s case is only one of many cases affecting teenagers throughout the country. Sophie and her family took part in a protest outside the Dáil last May attempting to highlight the issue, but so far both the Department of Health and the HSE have failed to address the issue,” said Deputy Keaveney.

“When Fine Gael came into office, they set a target of six months for the maximum time someone would remain on a surgical waiting list.

“Their response to failing to reach this target has not been to provide greater resources or to reform the service, but instead simply to increase the targets to twelve and then to 18 months.

“Sophie is now waiting almost two years and so Minister Varadkar has failed to meet even his own widened targets.

“The Minister needs to intervene in this issue now or else detail why he is not willing to address this serious issue. Young people like Sophie have effectively had their lives put on hold at a critical moment in their development.

“This has come at a heavy cost to their mental and emotional health, alongside the potential long-term damage being done to their physical health,” he added.

Connacht Tribune

Confusion reigns – but publicans continue serving pints outdoors

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Galway City publicans continued this week to serve alcohol in newly created on-street outdoor dining sections – despite warnings from Gardaí that it was against licensing laws.

The local branch of the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) said it is hoping Government will, if necessary, introduce legislation that facilitates pubs serving alcohol in public spaces reclaimed for outdoor hospitality.

On Friday last, our sister newspaper, Galway City Tribune revealed that Gardaí had visited a number of city pubs warning they were not legally permitted to serve alcohol outdoors in temporary on-street seating areas created by Galway City Council.

Publicans were told that if they continued to flout the rules, files would be sent to the DPP.

When the crux subsequently hit the national headlines, Justice Minister Heather Humphreys urged Gardaí to ‘use their discretion’.

“The overwhelming majority of licensed premises are operating safely, and we in Government are determined to continue to support them. If local issues arise, I would urge local authorities, Gardaí and businesses to engage.

“However, I will also examine whether further measures are required from Government. Licensing law is a complex area but I have spoken to the Attorney General this morning and we will take further action if necessary,” Minister Humphreys 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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Connacht Tribune

Apple plans second bite at Athenry data centre

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An artist's impression of the proposed Apple Data Centre.

Apple intends to have another bite at plans to build a data centre in Athenry.  Apple Operations Europe has applied to Galway County Council for more time to construct a controversial data centre on a greenfield site at Derrydonnell.

The company said it will identify “interested parties to develop the project” between now and 2026 to meet global growth in demand for data storage facilities.

It will spark hope in the County Galway town of a revival of the €850 million project that was dogged for years by planning delays and court appeals and was subsequently shelved. It may also attract fresh objections.

The world’s largest technology company was granted planning permission to build a €850 million data centre near Athenry in 2015.

An appeal to An Bórd Pleanála by a handful of local residents was not successful, and the planning appeals board confirmed the local authority’s decision in 2016.

But the company ultimately aborted its plans for County Galway in 2018 after three objectors sought a review of the decision through the courts.

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

Mum’s dream holiday turns to nightmare after cancer diagnosis

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Julia McAndrew, in hospital in Mexico.

A mother who went to Mexico on a dream holiday to spend Christmas with family is too weak to return home after being diagnosed with advanced cancer.

From the minute Julia McAndrew landed in the South American country, her health took a major downward spiral.

Her son and daughter were shocked when she asked for a wheelchair to make it through the airport.

She and daughter Eliska had flown out to see her son Patrick, who had relocated to Mexico to run an online learning business.

They initially thought she had fallen ill due to the rigours of a 22-hour, multi-stop flight.

But when her stomach problems did not improve and she began to lose a lot of weight and suffered from very low energy, they sought medical help.

This had to be done privately and without the financial help of an insurance company, Patrick reveals.

She was initially diagnosed with anaemia and kidney failure and underwent various treatments, including blood transfusions that appeared to be working.

But three weeks ago, medics discovered that what she had was Stage 4 breast cancer. Julia had cancer a decade ago but was given the all-clear after receiving treatment and a major change in lifestyle.

“It’s returned with a vengeance this time around. It’s spread to her pelvis, ribs and lungs,” reflects Patrick.

The cost of the treatment is $40,000 (€33,000) a month. Her family are hoping to build up her strength enough to endure the long flight home to Oranmore.

They have launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise €280,000 to pay for her treatment and in less than a week a phenomenal €36,000 has been donated.

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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