Charities Institute Ireland

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It Was Like The Games At Barretstown Were Gluing My Boys Back Together

Before Barretstown I didn’t know if my four children would ever play together again. Going there changed that, and I am so grateful.

Anyone who’s been through it knows that the fight to save your child’s life is all consuming; hospital visits, chemotherapy, operations, scans, radiation the list goes on. You’re constantly fighting. Fighting for your child who’s sick. But also, fighting to keep the show on the road. To keep your whole family together.

The first time I cried was when the social worker in Crumlin told us about Barretstown. The minute she said it would help bring my children back together I broke down.

“I thought, ‘Oh my God to actually have the boys play together again’. I couldn’t believe a place like that existed.”

A place where we could all be together and Seán would have all the support and expertise he needed onsite. I knew we needed to go there.

Seán and his twin brother Thomas were just six years old when Seán got sick. I’ll never forget the moment I noticed Seán’s tummy looked unusually big under his t-shirt. I remember asking him ‘Seán what have you stuffed under your shirt?’ When I looked there was nothing under his t-shirt but later when I touched his tummy I could feel something was wrong. My little boy’s tummy was hard and I could feel a big lump under his skin. I felt sick. Sick with fear of what that lump might be.

My husband Kevin and I went straight to our local hospital, where the doctors knew almost immediately what was wrong. Seán had a tumour. He was only six years old and he had cancer. I felt the world collapsing around me. But that was just the first day in the very long and difficult journey that lay ahead.

There were times when he told me, ‘I’m really scared mammy’. Those were terrible moments.

I found it really hard to keep it together but I had to for Seán. To get him ready for surgery, Seán underwent four weeks of chemotherapy to shrink the tumour. Seeing my child go through so much pain and trauma was incredibly difficult. All I wanted to do was take his place, but I couldn’t. I could only hold his hand and tell him everything was going to be ok. I couldn’t let Seán see how scared I really was. I’ll never forget how vulnerable he looked after his surgery. He had wires and tubes coming from everywhere. He was relying on oxygen to breathe. It was the most miserable I’ve ever seen him.

I saw a distance develop between Seán and his brothers. Thomas and Rory were becoming closer and closer as Seán was retreating further and further into himself.

Before Barretstown I didn’t know if my four children would ever play together again. Going there changed that. That’s the thing about Barretstown, no-one gets left out.

“It was like the games at Barretstown were gluing my boys back together.”

And it was all happening in the safest environment possible that gave Kevin and me such peace of mind. We arrived in Barretstown a family exhausted and in pieces. We left a family who knew what it was to laugh again.

Barretstown served 6,237 campers in 2016

Scott Kelley