SMALL STEPS?Iarlaith Farrell from Charlestown has benefitted greatly from Enable Ireland’s Safari Club in Castlebar.
Catherine Farrell talks about how Enable Ireland have helped her son
FOR parents, the first milestones in a child’s life are documented and cherished. The first time a baby crawls, the moment it takes its first steps ... these are the moments that will be recounted in years to come.
Unfortunately for Catherine and Ciaran Farrell from Charlestown, these milestones have never happened for their two-and-a-half year-old son Iarlaith, who was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy last year.
The Farrells were told of Iarlaith’s diagnosis the day Catherine was released from a Galway hospital having returned from death’s door after the birth of her last child Neasa, who is now a year old.
“We were told it was delayed development at first because he was born nine weeks premature … Pretty soon he began to miss particular milestones and we had a bad feeling,” explained Catherine, a secondary school teacher at St Nathy’s College, Ballaghderreen.
Though Iarlaith was not diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy until he was 16 months old, Catherine recounts that Enable Ireland were there from the very start.
The disability service will be the beneficiary of next Saturday’s Mayo News/O’Neills Club Star Awards in Knockranny House Hotel, Westport.
“I was in hospital in ICU for six weeks in Galway and I was really bad,” she recalled.
“I nearly died and Enable Ireland were just so good. They gave extra hours, extra personal assistant hours for [personal assistant] Lisa to be with Iarlaith, and obviously Ciaran was gone the whole time between me in ICU in Galway and Neasa being in the premature baby unit in Castlebar.
“It was just like one big triangle: Castlebar, home, washing machine, dinner, Galway, Castlebar, Galway, Castlebar and he even got Neasa home two weeks before I got home from hospital.”
Throughout this incredibly tough time for Catherine, Ciaran and their four children – Senan, Siofraidh, Iarlaith and Neasa – Enable Ireland did ‘as much as they could’ to ensure Iarlaith’s appointments were flexible and at times done at their home.
“They made a horrible situation bearable,” said Catherine.
AS Iarlaith’s condition means he cannot walk, physiotherapy and hydrotherapy sessions are all important. With services across the county at Áras Attracta, Swinford, the Safari Club, Castlebar and in Ballina and Charlestown, Iarlaith receives at least one session a week thanks to Enable Ireland, and Iarlaith’s personal assistant Lisa Dempsey gives him one-to-one sessions at the Farrell home each day.
Along with these services, Enable Ireland have provided occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and the provision of a specialist high chair, bath chair and sleep system for Iarlaith.
“You don’t have to go looking for all these people – they’re all there under one roof,” Catherine explains. “If you have a problem you just pick up the phone. You just ring Safari and they will sort it.”
The Mayo Early Intervention service is a collaborative model between Enable Ireland Mayo, HSE and Western Care Association.
These teams provide high quality, family-centred and co-ordinated service to children 0-6 years, including assessment and intervention, which Catherine knows only too well.
“They [Safari Club staff] have in-house meetings, they know all the kids because they are constantly having meetings about them with each other. The physiotherapist will know exactly what the dietician is doing, and the dietician will know exactly what the language therapist is doing. It’s great to have them all together.”
FOR Catherine and Ciaran, who both work full time – Ciaran is a prison officer in Castlerea – daily life with four children aged from five right down to just one years old is a constant logistical battle, but the Farrells are getting on with life.
“It is comforting and reassuring to meet other parents and other kids in the same boat and see how they are getting on,” said Catherine, referring to attending the Safari Club.
Talking to Catherine would give anyone a crash course in the difficulties life hands you, but she is positive. Despite some off days due to tummy upsets or spasms and contractions in Iarlaith’s body, every day is an improvement. If it’s simply her son playing with building blocks, or standing up with the aid of Lisa in his physio sessions, Iarlaith is being enabled, and so too are his family.