Cork boy reminded us that Ireland allows children to wait in pain

The pandemic has taught us that some groups are far less equal than others
Cork boy reminded us that Ireland allows children to wait in pain

Adam Terry has been waiting over four years for urgent scoliosis surgery.

"Dear Taoiseach, I am from Cork, like you. You know my story well by now. Will you please ensure I get the treatment and aftercare I so desperately need so I can get back to school and play with my friends, who I miss so much? I really, really need your help. Thanks. Adam."

We're not a bad little nation, or so we tell ourselves.

And then every so often we are pulled out of our delusional state — this week that jolt came from 10-year-old Adam Terry.

We are a nation that continues to facilitate "State-imposed child abuse", not my words, but comments made by Simon Coveney when he raised the plight of children suffering with scoliosis back in 2009.

More than a decade on, Adam, who suffers from the painful and debilitating condition, has reminded us all that this is a country that allows children to wait for years writhing in pain for critical surgery.

Adam's words have stayed with those who listened to his RTÉ radio interview just hours before Michael McGrath and Paschal Donohoe announced a budget that sprinkled a little everywhere but really won't achieve a lot.

"Nobody is coming out to find me in the lost and found," Adam told the Today with Claire Byrne Show.

"To be honest, sometimes I feel like I’m crying myself to sleep because it’s so unfair. It just makes me angry and frustrated and sad."

A child should never have the life experience to feel those emotions or utter those words.

Labour leader Alan Kelly was dead right when he told the Dáil that Adam's story is far more important and indicative of where this country is going than any budget.

"I am sure the majority of people in this country would give up any modest tax change if Adam and the 172 other children waiting for scoliosis procedures could have them. That is my belief," the Labour leader said.

Detailing the 21 procedures Adam has so far undergone, Mr Kelly said that four years ago his surgery would have been complex, but now it is even more so.

"It may go to the point where he will never be able to live without pain — imagine that —
because of the delay.

"Now the curve of his spine is so bad that some of his internal bones are rubbing against each other and he has to try to crack his back to get pain relief. 

One can see the curve on the side of his body. It is upsetting his organs and potentially causing other medical issues. His stomach is squashed and he cannot eat properly. His weight is down to 18kg and he is ten years old.

Responding, Taoiseach Micheál Martin had no answers, referring to the notes in front of him, he said the pages contained "information outlining what has been done, but I will not go through that".

He was right not to, any commitments contained in those sheets have done nothing to help ease the suffering of Adam and the hundreds of children like him.

Adam with his mother, Christine, who said she will go to the ends of the earth for her son.
Adam with his mother, Christine, who said she will go to the ends of the earth for her son.

Mr Martin insisted the Government is committed to solving long waiting lists for both children and adults, but he said he didn't want to "give any false dawns today".

Mr Martin's own words from 2017 were thrown back at him: "It is a genuine scandal how many services which children rely upon have failed in recent years. 

"The situation is by some distance worse than it was before. One look at the waiting list for scoliosis illustrates this".

In reminding the Taoiseach of what he had said about the issue when in opposition, Mr Kelly added: "I could also read others, but I will not bother."

There is no doubt that all groups across society are struggling, from pensioners to the self-employed and frontline workers, the past 18 months have been a slog.

But the pandemic has also taught us that some groups are far less equal than others.

Instead of taking what would have been a bold decision to transform lives through targeted measures, the Government again fumbled in a greasy till and doled out budget fivers as if voters were children who could be pacified.

Is there a return to sender facility for the pathetic and insulting budget sweeteners? 

I want my money to go to Adam and the thousands of other children waiting for treatment.

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