BIG CHANGES Evie O’Mahony is pictured at home in Kiltimagh.
REWIND back around 14 weeks and Evie O’Mahony was like most teenagers her age, living her best life.
The 17 year-old from Kiltimagh was in Transition Year at the local St Louis Community School with work experience and a trip to Lourdes in the pipeline.
Her weekly schedule was full too; with dance classes, swimming classes, gym sessions and Special Olympics training all on her ‘to do’ list. Not to mention some volunteering work at an animal rescue shelter in Ballyhaunis. It was all go for Evie.
Then Coronavirus landed on Ireland’s shores and everything stopped.
Life hasn’t been the same for the ‘lively and energetic’, music-loving teenager since.
Her mum, Caitlín, takes up the story.
“Evie did her Junior Cert last year, was in TY and everything was going great. She had work experience lined up and was due to be going to Lourdes. She was really looking forward to it.
“And then it was all gone. The first few weeks weren’t too bad, we could still go to Lough Lannagh in Castlebar and Ballyhaunis, but then that stopped too.
“And Evie was asking, ‘Why?’ ‘When will the virus be gone?’
“As the weeks went by she started getting anxious and didn’t want to go out,” added Caitlín.
“She was lively and energetic, and loves music and dancing. She loves going to school.
“But now she’s become very frustrated and cross in herself, and a lot more introverted. She just hasn’t had much social interaction and it’s really affecting her.
“She finds the days very long. She really wants to be busy but there’s just nothing for her to do. Her two older brothers, who would usually be in college, are at home too. And that doesn’t suit her routine either —she’s used to being the boss!” laughs her mum.
Uncertainty is something that we’ve all had to become familiar with in recent months.
But the uncertainty is magnified for Evie O’Mahony and her family.
They don’t know what the rest of 2020 and beyond look like for Evie, and neither does anybody else right now either.
Earlier this month there were a number of plans unveiled and promises made by the Government that weren’t kept in relation to summer provision, after issues arose in relation to a lack of guidelines and availability of staff. Parents also had difficulty accessing tutors.
This summer programme was intended to support children like Evie who have special educational or care needs.
Without it, the summer and the future stretches out worryingly for parents all across the country like Caitlín Woods.
“I’m worried,” she said. “You have accept a certain amount of risk, and I’m not wrapping her up in cotton wool, but nobody knows what’s going to happen. Nobody has a crystal ball.
“Will she go back to school? How prevalent is the virus going to be?
“If this is going to go on until September, I don’t know. . . We know things could be a lot worse. . But everything is just up in the air at the moment, everything is so uncertain.
“Evie is fairly independent and can express how she feels,” she continues.
“Compared to many other people with disabilities, her needs are minor.
“However, many families who are caring for loved ones with complex needs are now deprived of the supports they need in the current situation. These family carers and the children and adults they look after are suffering huge stress with no end in sight.”
Evie O’Mahony doesn’t have any particular under-lying health conditions but ‘her immunity would be lower’ and she does ‘picks things up easily’.
“If she was to get sick, she would get sicker than some other people,” explained Caitlín.
The last few months have been hard on Evie, but her mood did brighten recently when the Covid-19 restrictions on travel were eased and she got to enjoy one of her guilty pleasures.
“The biggest joy she’s had in months was when we were told that we could travel more than 5kms again and we went to Castlebar to the drive-thru at McDonald’s,” smiled Caitlín.
“Just getting to go somewhere in the car again was great for Evie.”
Now she just wants to get back to some sort of normality again.