How Christmas is made special for the children at LauraLynn hospice

Helen O’Callaghan hears how children’s charity helps families

How Christmas is made special for the children at LauraLynn hospice

Helen O’Callaghan hears how children’s charity helps families

The run-up to Christmas is very special at LauraLynn, Ireland’s Children’s Hospice. Just a few weeks ago, there was Light Up LauraLynn, the hospice’s tree-lighting ceremony, when the gates are thrown open to the public.

There were Christmas stalls, letters to Santa, face-painting and carolling, RTÉ broadcaster Ray D’Arcy was MC and Mickey Mouse strolled about alongside penguins, princesses, Santa and Mrs Claus. This event and the annual LauraLynn family Christmas party are a chance to reflect on the year, remember those who have passed and celebrate life and family.

For Co Offaly-based Teresa and Ronan Dunne, whose eight-year-old, Eoghan, has global developmental delay, the Christmas party’s a chance to meet Santa as a family. Eoghan has two sisters, Keelin, 11, and Ciara, nine. “There’s no queuing and no rush, which is good because Eoghan needs extra time to process things,” says Teresa.

Eoghan was born healthy but became ill just before turning one. A high fever quickly turned into pneumonia, septic shock resulted in cardiac arrest and Eoghan suffered severe neurological damage leaving him with quadriplegic cerebral palsy.

He’s visually impaired, is peg-fed, incontinent. He has severe scoliosis and epilepsy. He cognitively knows everything we’re saying but can’t speak. We use switches so he can say yes/ no. He can use his hands a bit and he can walk a little in his walker.

Eoghan’s a “happy little fellow”, in second class at Offaly School of Special Education. “He’s always smiling and blowing kisses. He has a great sense of humour.”

When Teresa first heard LauraLynn could help the family, she thought ‘Oh god ... a hospice, no!’ But she found it a bright, happy place. “The staff are so cheerful. There doesn’t seem to be any sadness. In the midst of kids being peg-fed and having seizures, there’s fun. The girls think it’s a hotel. The minute Eoghan gets to the door of Laura Lynn he knows where he is. His legs start kicking, his hands start moving. He can’t wait to get in.”

For the Dunnes, a big highlight of 2019 was staying at LauraLynn last weekend for two nights. “We stay in the parents’ accommodation so we don’t have to worry about being away from Eoghan. He’s just upstairs.”

LauraLynn has a full team on standby to open on Christmas Day/Stephen’s Day if needed.

www.lauralynn.ie

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