'Game changing' Respite House for children with disabilities to be opened in Limerick next spring

By David Raleigh

Maia Quinlan, aged thirteen, has had to face arduous journeys to Dublin for respite care.

She cannot use her limbs, and she requires 24-hour medical care.

However, for Maia and hundreds of other children with complex disabilities living in the mid-west region, the task of having to travel long journeys away from their own homes for respite is nearing an end.

A fundraising campaign was launched last night in Limerick, for the first Respite House for children with physical disabilities and complex needs in the mid-west region.

The state-of-the-art, six-bedroom facility, St Gabriel’s Children’s Respite House, is being developed in Mungret, on the outskirts of Limerick city centre, at a cost of over €2.4m.

The JP McManus Foundation has announced a €1m donation towards the project and the shortfall is to be made up through a fundraising campaign, entitled: “St Gabriel’s Children’s Respite House is about time!”

It's hoped construction work on the respite house will be completed in the autumn, prior to a scheduled opening in Spring 2019.

Speaking at the launch of the fundraising drive, Maia’s mother Mary Quinlan, explained that, currently, the only suitable respite facility where Maia can go to, is in Dublin.

“In June 2016 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. So, for a long time I was unable physically to look after Maia, which was very difficult,” Ms Quinlan added.

Maia Quinlan with her parents Pat and Mary. Picture: Arthur Ellis

“For me, as her mum, and for my husband, who the burden of care fell to, we really needed the psychological peace of mind of knowing Maia was being looked after. And unfortunately that was probably the greatest source of stress.”

She said if they had had a locally-based respite house at the time, it “would have been a huge support”.

Of Maia’s needs, she said: “Maia is like a newborn baby in the body of a 13-year-old. She has quadriplegic cerebral palsy, so she is unable to use any of her limbs. She is unable to do anything for herself.”

“Despite all her difficulties she is one of the best people I know.”

She added: “Maia will only have three years or so to avail of the facilities as it will be for children up to 18 years but even those few years will provide precious support.”

This will be an absolute game changer for a lot of families.

St Gabriel’s has been helping families of children with disabilities since 1961.

St Gabriel’s CEO, Máire O’Leary, said the organisation currently “provides the most advanced range of clinical therapies and interventions for over 600 children”.

Ms O’Leary thanked the Quinlan family, including Maia and her parents Mary and Pat, for sharing their story, as well as the JP McManus Foundation for its support, and also the Limerick Twenty Thirty local authority development company, which pledged to purchase vital equipment for the respite house.

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