Michele Fenton, from Midleton in East Cork, said she was honoured and humbled to receive the award from Lord Mayor Mary Shields in City Hall yesterday.
“I don’t think I’m doing anything that I shouldn’t be doing,” she said.
“I’ve been so long at it now it’s just become part of my life. But I do it because I want to.”
Michele’s daughter, Aimee-Louise, was born in June 2002 with dysplastic left/absent right kidney disease — Bor syndrome — which resulted in end stage renal failure.
Michele had to learn to do dressings, insert feeding tubes, administer medications and prepare and monitor dialysis which ran over 12 hours a night, six days a week, for the first three years of her daughter’s life.
Despite several brushes with death, brave Aimee-Louise defied the odds to survive and thrive. In 2005, her dad, Donal, donated one of his kidneys.
However, post-transplant complications meant Michele and Aimee-Louise had to travel to countless medical appointments in Dublin.
By December 2012, it became clear that Aimee-Louise’s new kidney was failing, and since July 2013, she has been attending Temple Street children’s hospital four days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays — for haemodialysis.
Michele said the routine of leaving Cork at 5.30am to attend the 12-hour treatment sessions has put a huge strain on the family, and this regime will continue until doctors find a new kidney for Aimee-Louise.
Michele said she and her husband’s life revolve around caring for their daughter.
“It can be a very lonely place to be sometimes — caring full-time like we do.
“Nobody really understands what you go through.
“Carers get very little support from the Government, who are always looking to cut this, that or the other.
“We save the State a fortune by caring for our loved ones at home, yet we get little support and no thanks. What they do pay doesn’t cover the medical expenses.”
But she praised the support from their extended family, and said Aimee-Louise keeps her going through the tough times.
“Through it all, she has always been an amazing and happy child. She always sees the positive and bright side of everything,” she said.
Michele also thanked Midleton Carers Association for the nomination.
One nomination read: “While it is very tiring and hard on the family, Michele just gets on with it. She has found an inner strength she didn’t know she had and watching Aimee-Louise grow into a young woman — having been given little hope at the beginning of her life — is reward enough for Michele and her husband.”
Michele is one of 21 regional Carers of the Year award winners announced yesterday. The national award winners will be announced at a gala ceremony in Dublin next Wednesday.