Children like Abbie are losing their childhoods to cancer and other illnesses. But, at Barretstown, we give children their childhoods back.
Back in the summer of 2016, little Abbie began a long and traumatic journey into treatment when she was diagnosed with leukaemia. She was just seven years old. Abbie was so lethargic and pale and she had bruises on her body that just wouldn’t go away. So, her mum Andrea took her to the hospital. Within just 45 minutes of being in the paediatric unit, Andrea received the worst news any mother can ever hear. She told us: “I knew there was something wrong. Then they called me into a room on my own. The consultant and a nurse told me Abbie had leukaemia.” It’s hard to imagine what it must be like to receive such dark and devastating news on a beautiful summer’s day. “I couldn’t process it straight away,” Andrea recalls. “I went down to the parents’ room and I just lost it. I was sobbing.”
“We sat down and explained that her body was a little bit tired, that her blood cells were low and that she has to go to the big hospital for a while so the doctors can do more tests on her and see exactly how they’re going to make her better.”
When Abbie first started to receive chemotherapy, it took a massive toll on her fragile body. Andrea remembers those traumatising first couple of weeks she spent in hospital: “She just basically shut down. She went into a shell. She refused medication. She wasn’t eating. She was so weak she couldn’t even make it to the toilet. It was beautiful weather and there were lots of kids out in the garden but she just didn’t want to socialise with anybody.” Because she wasn’t eating, Abbie began to lose a dangerous amount of weight – until doctors had no choice but to insert a feeding tube to keep her alive. It must have been truly awful for Abbie. Her hair started to fall out. Then she started getting ulcers, first of all in her mouth and then right down through her body so she was in constant pain in her stomach and back. Almost unbelievably, Abbie had to live with the treatment – and its many harrowing side effects – for a total of two and half years. Barretstown exists purely to help children like Abbie who are living with anxiety and fear as they battle serious illness.Donate Now
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It’s no exaggeration to say that Abbie’s visit to Barretstown was life changing. Andrea and Enda were amazed to see that the little girl who arrived there distressed and anxious left with a lot of her old sparkle back and absolutely brimming with confidence.
“From the time we got there it was just fun and laughing. It was absolutely amazing from start to finish. It was brilliant for Abbie to just be herself and get to do the stuff that she wouldn’t normally do, like rock climbing – I knew she was safe and we were so looked after.
Apart from all the fun and activities, one of the most crucial things Abbie got from her time at camp was the chance to meet and chat with other children who have been going though some of the same challenges she’s faced. “The friends that she made there,” explains Andrea, “they were all on the same playing field. She didn’t have to be embarrassed about anything. There was so much interaction. She was like this confident little thing all weekend.”
The Impact Of Barretstown
Since that first family camp, we’ve seen a lot more of her at Barretstown. She’s been back for several more camps, including another family camp last November. In fact, something very special happened at the camp in November. I’m delighted to say that, while Abbie was there, our staff nurse, Helen, gave her her very last dose of chemo. After two and a half years, Abbie could finally wave goodbye to that exhausting treatment. Since then, she’s been doing very well. She’s still experiencing some side effects but they’re being monitored and we’re all confident she’s on the right track for a full recovery. But the simple fact is there are so many more children like her who are still in the grip of serious illness – and who urgently need our help this summer.
Will You Help?
For too many seriously ill children, childhood simply stops. Their young lives are put on hold. But, with your help, Barretstown is doing everything possible to change that. Please will you make a gift today and help bring a child like Abbie to Barretstown this summer? What’s more, thanks to a kind offer from our new partner Center Parcs Ireland, you can now make your gift go even further. The company has very generously promised to match all gifts given to this appeal. This is an amazing and rare opportunity to double your donation. It means that your gift will actually be worth double at absolutely no extra cost to you. With your help, we can have a huge impact on the lives of seriously ill children like Abbie. Together, we can help boys and girls repair emotional damage caused by serious illness.Donate Now
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Joy & Magic
Our arts and crafts team are always on hand with paint, facepaint, crayons, craft paper, bracelet beads, feathers and everything you can imagine, to bring out the creative side in each child!
All of our camps and programmes are designed to respond directly to the needs of a child living with a serious illness – both clinical and psychological. Our unique model of challenge, discovery, reflection and success is recognised by paediatricians and psychologists all over the world as an important and necessary component of a child’s treatment.
The loss of control that many children and their families experience as a result of a serious illness can gradually erode confidence, diminish self-esteem, body image and coping skills. We aim to give this back by empowering and encouraging each individual to step out of their comfort zone and begin to re-build their confidence, trust and self-esteem and discover something new about themselves and their ability.
We believe that fun should be an integral part of what we do. Fun and laughter are key ingredients in improving the lives of those affected by serious illness.
Our outreach programme brings the playful spirit of Barretstown beyond the gates of our beautiful castle into hospitals and communities all over the country.