To hear a child who has been battling cancer laugh so much that tears run down their face and milk squirts out their nose is one of the most wonderful sounds you could ever hear. To Leo, and the rest of our family, Barretstown is THE most magical place on earth”
Alexa, Leo’s Mum
Without our Med Shed, children like Leo couldn’t come to Barretstown. Alexa and her son Leo share their Barretstown story with us, and highlight the vital role played by the Barretstown Med Shed.
Two years ago, at Easter, Leo came home from a family camping trip with a temperature. His doctor prescribed antibiotics, but his mam knew something was wrong, when after a few days, Leo wasn’t getting better.
“We had to wait 24 hours for them to do a bone marrow test and get the results. It was a nightmare, because we spent the day going ‘is it, or isn’t it leukaemia’? But I knew in my heart that’s what it was.
In the beginning I was spending nights with Leo in hospital, so my mum used to come up and take my place at home. Kids are amazing at coping with new situations… but it took a good few months to find our new ‘normal’.”
Leo had a three and a half year course of cancer treatment ahead of him. His mam told me it was especially hard on him in the beginning. He struggled with his steroids, which caused him terrible nightmares and hallucinations.
And he was set to start Junior Infants that September. But because he was so sick, he didn’t start school until the following January.
Starting school is a huge deal for any child. It’s often when they form their first friendships, and start learning to be independent. But for Leo, it was the first time he was away from his mam and dad. He really struggled. As he started late, he was behind the other children. He did his best to catch up, and make friends, while coping with drugs that made him sick and drained his strength. All of this knocked the confidence out of Leo.
Cancer made him feel like he couldn’t do anything.
It made him feel like he wasn’t a regular child anymore. Thanks to our supporters children who are seriously ill can come to our camps, have fun, challenge themselves, and regain their self-confidence. But before this can happen, we need to provide children with the care they need while they’re in camp. If it weren’t for the Med Shed, Leo would never have been able to come to Barretstown. In fact, it’s because of the Med Shed, and the therapeutic benefits that our camps provide, that doctors recommend Barretstown to parents.
You see, all of the children who come to Barretstown are coping with serious illness. Some require oral chemotherapy while at camp, or treatment for diseases like haemophilia. Without the Med Shed, children couldn’t come and experience our life-changing camps.
For parents, our camps are the only place where they can bring their child, and their entire family, and get a break from illness, medication and hospitals. The doctors and nurses in our Med Shed take all the worry away.
Ever since Leo’s last trip to Barretstown, his mam has seen a big change in him… “He’s shy, but in the past six months that’s changed a lot. He’s becoming a lot more open to other people. He has this extra confidence in himself that he definitely didn’t have before. When he’s in Barretstown, he has this feeling of freedom. And that gives him confidence. When he leaves he takes that with him.”
Without our Med Shed our camps wouldn’t happen. And children like Leo couldn’t come and experience the magic of Barretstown.
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