Irish rugby coach Joe Schmidt has encouraged families of seriously ill children living long-term in hospital to be “open” and share their personal stories to help stay positive.
Schmidt did not address speculation that he is retiring as Irish rugby coach after the 2019 rugby World Cup for family reasons, however the Kiwi did open up about his own experience of coping with his 15-year old son Luke’s severe epilepsy condition.
Schmidt appeared as a special guest in Limerick today where he signed copies of charity book The Dolls Complaints, penned by 12-year old Keeva Delaney.
All proceeds from the book, which costs €8 and is available through Dunnes Stores shops, will go towards Cliona’s Foundation, which gives financial support to families of children with complex care needs.
“It’s pretty traumatic for kids; they feel pretty isolated when they are in a hospital ward by themselves, and, it's traumatic for the parents as well; they feel isolated from their kids if they can’t be there with them,” Schmidt offered.
“Having been in the situation ourselves it always make it a little bit more personal when you’re supporting a charity like this one,” he said.
Schmidt initially stopped short of offering advice to other families in similar or worse situations but paid special tribute to his wife Kellie for her dedication to their son Luke.
“We’ve got three other kids and what has really helped us is that Luke has been incredibly resilient.”
“He stays incredibly positive despite the number of times that he has had to be in and out of hospital.”
Schmidt added: “I think the advice would be to keep (your children) close and keep (their illness) as normal as you can. Routine is a friend and it keeps things ticking over, and it allows them to stay positive.”
He stressed that being “open” about the situation can help, and added this had helped his own family remain positive about Luke’s condition.
“Try to keep things as open as you can as well. We would have, for a long time, not said anything about (the) trials and tribulations we’ve had, just because it’s a family matter.”
Brendan Ring and his wife Terry both voluntarily run Clionas Foundation in memory of their 16-year old daughter Cliona who passed away from an inoperable brain tumour in 2006.
Mr Ring explained: “it costs between €10,000 and €12,000 a year to look after a child while they are undergoing treatment for a long-term illness”.
“We want people to get children home from hospital this Christmas - imagine not being able to do that - or we will get their parents to go and be with them,” he added.
The charity book’s 11-year old author Keeva Delaney said a follow-up national school art competition is planned, inviting children to design their favourite doll, which its hoped will feature in a short movie and a second book.
To make a donation visit clionasfoundation.ie