From Ireland’s ‘sickest child’ to ‘child of courage’ award for brave Peter

Peter McMahon at one stage had 5% lung capacity, and had the unenviable title of the sickest child in Ireland for about 48 hours. Picture: Ciara Wilkinson

A boy who had the “unenviable title of the sickest child in Ireland” as he fought leukaemia has won a ‘Child of Courage’ award.

“We were delighted that Peter got the Child of Courage award. We hope it raises more awareness of childhood cancer,” said his proud mum Claire McMahon.

Now a happy and healthy 6-year-old, Peter was diagnosed with AML-type leukaemia — one of the more rare forms of the disease that makes up just 10% of all cases.

His father Willie said they still clearly remember the diagnosis they were given in Cavan General Hospital when Peter was 18-months-old.

“They told us we would stay with them overnight and Peter would go to Crumlin the next morning by ambulance and would be starting treatment. Our world started changing dramatically after that.

“The treatment for AML, which had attacked Peter’s lungs, was fast and furious. He had a lot of complications in the first few days in Crumlin Hospital and we were only there two nights when he ended up in intensive care for a week. All this time he was still getting chemo.

“At one stage he had 5% lung capacity and so he had the unenviable title of the sickest child in Ireland for about 48 hours,” Willie said.

At the awards ceremony, organised for the Meath Rehab People of the Year awards, Peter and his sisters Aimee Rose, 8, and Clodagh, 16 months were the only children in attendance. Despite this the McMahon family were thinking of the children they met on St John’s Ward in Crumlin Children’s Hospital.

One was Aoibheann Norman who died from cancer aged eight. “Aoibheann had great empathy with the smaller children and she was very kind to Peter and played with him in the playroom in the hospital.

“She would be 12 or 13 now and we remember her making her First Communion in there [hospital]. She was very much in my mind on the night Peter got his award,” added Claire.

Willie said Peter is “delighted” with his trophy. It is a crystal vase, but he thinks it is his trophy and every night he puts it to bed in its box and then takes it out again in the morning.

Peter’s mum Claire said, “We hope this will raise more awareness about childhood cancer.”


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