Meet Ciara. Here is her story told by her lovely mum Caroline.
One day we noticed that Ciara was more sleepy and tired than usual. We thought she must have a virus she couldn’t shake or maybe she was a bit anaemic. But as soon as she saw the doctor it became clear that something much more serious was going on. Just a couple of nights later, I lay in a narrow hospital bed with my beautiful little daughter cuddled up beside me, I knew our lives were about to change, forever.
The idea that Ciara was sick, that she might have cancer, would need treatment, might even die – was impossible for me to get my head around. I couldn’t sleep a wink that night, such were the scary thoughts that were going round in my head.
Nothing can prepare you for your child being seriously ill. Seeing them go through lengthy, painful treatment – and being able to do so little to help them – it goes against every protective instinct.
What followed were some of the hardest days of our lives. It wasn’t until we got to Barretstown that we realised just how stressed and frightened we had all been. All she knew was that she had to spend days in and out of hospital. Being poked and prodded by doctors and nurses. Being hooked up to machines that beeped and hissed.
She came to hate needles. I’d have to hold her while they took blood and she’d sob ‘stop, Mummy, stop’ until I thought my heart would break. And then her hair fell out. Her beautiful blonde curls.
The Hair Fairy
She was so upset, poor little thing. So, we made up a poem about the Hair Fairy and how she needed Ciara’s hair to help in Fairy Valley. We also created a ‘Fairy Door’ for her, so that every time she had to have a procedure or more medicine, there would be a little something left for her at the Fairy Door.
I could see that the treatment was changing Ciara. It was so tough on my confident, lively little girl and there were many days when she was really low and struggled to do anything. She didn’t even want to draw.
I want to give:
I worried that she would lose a bit of herself forever to the hospitals and the toxic medicines. That the drugs wouldn’t work, and she wouldn’t make it through.
But then we went to Barretstown and honestly I wish you could have seen Ciara’s face! Thanks to you, that was the first time in a long time that Ciara could run about with other children her own age and forget about hospitals and treatments. Her trip to camp brought me back my Ciara, with all her fun and laughter. She loved every minute of it, and so did we.
It’s such a special place and I only wish every child in Ireland who needed it could spend time there. Barretstown helped heal my family. We’ll never forget it.
The Impact of Barretstown
I think that’s one of the most incredible things about Barretstown – that it helps the whole family. We’d both lost some of our confidence and sense
of joy, and seeing Ciara trying new things, and having that time to have fun all together, helped bring it back.
But the Barretstown effect doesn’t just last while you’re at camp. I can still feel it now. Everything we did and learned and felt while we were there has come home with us, and never gone away
The Impact of Your Donation
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.