Since Emily was born 5 years ago to parents Ann-Maire and Sean, big brother Cormac has always been there for her. Emily was the perfect little addition to their growing family. Placid and easy-going, Cormac was completely smitten with her from the start.
``We were so lucky that straight off the bat there was no jealousy. And at only 16 months, he took to the role of big brother like a duck to water.`` - Ann-Maire , Emily & Cormac's mum
``For the first three months, everything was completely normal``
Ann-Maire and Sean were just adjusting to juggling a new baby and an energetic toddler, when they became worried about the colour in Emily’s face. Her skin was quite yellow and jaundiced looking, from time to time. They took her to the local GP in Waterford and before they knew it, they were in Cork University Hospital getting bloods and a scan. Ann-Maire hoped they were being over-cautious, that it was nothing.
The scan showed that Emily had a rare condition where her gall bladder and bile ducts weren’t ever fully formed. It meant her bile wasn’t draining fully and was attacking her liver. The Byrne family had to transfer to Dublin for a biopsy two days later. A week after that, they travelled to England for a very serious procedure to remove Emily’s blocked bile ducks and gallbladder. Sadly just 6 weeks later they confirmed this was not a success.
At just 5-months old, Emily was put on a waiting list for a lifesaving liver transplant.
``The whole thing was the most terrifying whirlwind – everything just spiraling out of control. I don’t think we properly took a breath - properly relaxed and started living again – until our first trip to Barretstown three years later.`` - Ann-Maire , Emily and Cormac's mum
What Barretstown meant for the Byrne Family
``I felt like I’d been holding my breath for years.
Waiting. Hoping. Struggling. Worrying. And just surviving.
At Barretstown, we started living again. It lifted the most exceptional weight off our shoulders. For the first time in a long time, you could see Cormac feel and trust that he had his mammy back again.``
Serious illness doesn't just impact the child who is diagnosed - it impacts their parents and siblings. It can bring normal life to a halt, and steals precious time and memories from the whole family.
Barretstown not only helps children who are sick to regain their confidence and enjoy childhood again, it gives siblings who have lost out on their own childhood the opportunity to feel special, and to get back to life as it should be as they grow up. It provides a safe space for families to let go of the worries of serious illness, and to make up for lost time having fun together.
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