Why funding is integral to a child’s care
Irish parents are supporting Light It Up Gold, to raise funds for improved cancer facilities
Dylan Smith: commented on the difference between the Dublin hospital and the one in America. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Above, from left, Kim, Karen, Toju and Eábha: the family thought Eábha’s treatment for leukaemia was of a high standard, but the facilities were poor. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Almost 200 Irish children are diagnosed with cancer each year and while their parents are undoubtedly devastated by both the diagnosis and the reality of caring for a sick child, some families have the added burden of raising funds to help improve hospital facilities.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month with gold its official colour. Last year, an American father, Tony Stoddard, lost his son to cancer and despite his grief launched the Light It Up Gold campaign which sees landmark buildings across the world being lit up in a bid to raise awareness of the plight suffered by children with cancer. During the first week of September, many recognisable buildings in Ireland will be following suit and lighting up gold.
Gillian Smyth is one of the parents responsible for organising the Irish involvement. Her son, Dylan, was diagnosed with a brain tumour last year and while the care he received in Ireland was second to none, she believes the facilities are severely lacking. “Last summer Dylan and I went to visit his dad in the US,” recalls the Kildare woman. “He had been complaining of headaches and nausea in the weeks leading up to the trip but the doctor thought it was a tummy bug.
“We flew out as planned to Chicago last July but he was really sick on the flight and as soon as we arrived, we made an appointment to see a paediatrician. She gave him a good look over and said if he didn’t feel better in a few days, she would order a CT scan.
“But he continued throwing up so we brought him to the local emergency room and they did a scan which revealed he had a 4 cm tumour on his brain.”
Shocked and devastated by this news, Smyth went with her son as he was rushed to Lurie Children’s hospital where he underwent an MRI scan a few hours later.
“It was all so shocking but everything happened so fast,” she recalls. “After the scans, we were told that he would have to have surgery the following day to remove the tumour. This took eight hours and afterwards, he was in an awful lot of pain.
“But he was monitored constantly and started on physiotherapy and occupational therapy the next day. It took a month for the pressure to subside on his brain and he also had to undergo further surgery. Tests were done on the tumour and it was confirmed that it was cancerous so he had to have chemotherapy and radiotherapy.”
Difference in hospitals
In October they returned to Ireland and Dylan started chemotherapy in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin (OLCHC) but both of them were appalled at the difference in the two hospitals.