It’s just the backing she needed in her race against time for a Christmas miracle.
Munster rugby players have lined out to help Audrey Murnane — the mother of identical twin girls born with the same life-threatening congenital airway condition — get her dramatic fundraising effort over the line.
The devoted Cork mother launched an appeal last weekend to raise over €34,000 by Dec 18 to pay for vital, life-changing procedures for her 18-month-old daughters, Zoe and Maya, at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital.
The girls were born with long segment tracheal stenosis, a condition which causes an obstruction in the trachea, the airway tube which links the throat to the lungs.
The are the only twins in Ireland with the condition and are due to undergo a non-invasive procedure in Great Ormond St to keep their airways open.
They will undergo a bronchoscopy and a dye test to evaluate their condition, and then doctors will insert a special balloon to stretch the girls’ airways.
Audrey was forced to issue a public appeal for help to fund the procedure after the Irish health service refused to sanction funding for it abroad.
But after a chance meeting with Munster star, Donncha O’Callaghan, who was touched by the babies’ plight earlier this week, Audrey reached the 50% target.
Now, with the backing of his teammates, she said she is confident she will raise all the cash before the procedure.
“Donncha’s been amazing really,” Audrey said.
“When he heard our story, and that the State wasn’t going to fund what they’re supposed to, he got behind us straight away, and said the team would get behind us.
“He’s agreed to help out personally with the fundraising. The team are doing a private photo shoot with the girls today, and we are getting signed Munster jerseys for an online auction.”
The babies underwent initial lifesaving surgery in Crumlin within days of their birth, and Audrey was told they would need constant check-ups, and other minor procedures as they grew.
But because of the complexity and rarity of their condition, Audrey said it appears as if doctors here are reluctant to do the follow-up procedures.
“I’ve been passed between Crumlin and Cork University Hospital [CUH], back to Crumlin again,” she said.
“They’ve seen 13 consultants over the months but no one wants to take responsibility — their condition is so rare.”
The Irish medical system wouldn’t even arrange a referral for the twins, Audrey said.
“I spent way too long hoping, begging, praying for something to be done that I eventually had to do it myself,” she said.
She used freedom of information legislation to send her daughters’ medical files to Great Ormond St for assessment, where the survival rate for kids with this condition is over 90%.
“They described the girls as like two sitting time-bombs — that they need this procedure to keep them alive,” she said.
“And they effectively accused the Irish medical system of neglecting my daughters.
“Maya’s symptoms are worse and the delay will have a huge lifelong effect on her.
“It’s inhumane and heartbreaking really. I pass the Cork dog shelter regularly and the animals there get better treatment.
“It’s hard to believe the Irish medical system would leave the situation continue. It’s heartbreaking.”
But Audrey said she has been overwhelmed by the generosity of the public, and she thanked the staff at CUH’s neonatal unit, and her GP Dr Eamonn O’Grady, for their support.
* Details on donations on the Help Zoe & Maya Facebook page.
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