From storeroom to playroom .... teenager’s design lifts spirits of young cancer patients in Cork

A teenager’s inspired make-over of a hospital storeroom will help make treatment for young cancer patients a little easier to bear.

From storeroom to playroom .... teenager’s design lifts spirits of young cancer patients in Cork

Emma O’Callaghan, 17, from Mallow, Co Cork, said she was delighted, as her new circus-themed family room in the Mercy Hospital’s Children’s Leukaemia Unit in Cork — the largest such unit outside Dublin’s Crumlin hospital — was unveiled yesterday.

Parents of children attending the unit said it will have a positive impact.

“This room will make a huge difference to us,” said Therese Crowley, from Ballinadee, near Bandon.

Her daughter, Lauren, 7, is undergoing shared treatment between Crumlin and the Mercy for lymphoma behind her eyes.

“The new room is bright, it’s cheery, it’s just so lovely,” she said. Before this, the children would play in the corridor, but now you can sit down here and relax; you can watch the kids playing, rather than sitting in the corridor.

“All Lauren remembers, really, about her time here is playing, and the toys, which is great.”

Sandy Boundy, from Bishopstown, whose two-year-old son Max was diagnosed with leukaemia in October 2013, said: “It will make a fundamental difference to Max’s treatment.

“Being in a treatment room can, after a while, feel confining and claustrophobic. So being able to get out of the room and come in to a room like this will make a huge difference.

“The toys used to be in the corridors and the children would play there, and you’d have nurses and doctors tripping over the toys.

“Having a room where you can go — a really bright, light, airy space like this — will make an enormous difference to us as parents, and to the kids.”

Bronze Gaisce winner Emma was chosen to oversee the makeover as part of a Facebook competition run by Gaisce, along with the furniture store DFS, the Mercy, and Optimise Design.

She was teamed up with Denise O’Connor and Catherine Crowe of Optimise Design, who starred in RTE’s Design Doctors programme, to work on the project.

A fifth-year student at St Mary’s, she honed her design and colour-scheme for the room during the summer.

DFS supplied colourful purpose-built couches and stools, covered in hospital-grade material. The room was kitted out with toyboxes, shelves heaving with books, and a TV.

“I knew it would have some impact, but to hear today from an actual parent the difference that it will make to them, is just amazing,” Emma said.

Joe Reilly, store manager at DFS’s City Gate outlet in Mahon, said they were delighted to bring comfort to people attending the unit.

Mercy Hospital Foundation CEO Michéal Sheridan said the unit is dealing with over 40 children and their families from Munster who now have a comfortable space in which to enjoy quality family time.

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