Liz Carey is a nurse who usually works on the National School’s Immunisation Programme. However, in March last year, she was redeployed to a testing centre in the South East.

Having returned to her original school immunisation role during the summer, Liz was called up to aid the COVID vaccine roll-out over Christmas and into the new year.

She was vaccinated last Friday at University Hospital Waterford. “I was more than delighted to be called for the vaccine. It is a step closer to getting back to normal”, she says. This is her story…


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Wexford MarineWatch celebrated eight years in action in 2020 and to date have helped hundreds of people in distress, saving many lives in the process.
 
Founding member George Lawlor told Shonagh about how the organisation came to be and the tireless work of its volunteers.

 

Our Christmas Wednesday Warrior was 5th-year student Molli Meaghan-Tresson from Wexford. Molli has composed and performed a festive charity single for homeless services. To date, the single has raised over €1000. You can listen to it here. This is her story…

 

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“I began busking in early 2018 and decided that year I wanted to donate my entire December earnings to help the homeless. I researched the various charities working directly with those I wanted to help and Christmas 2018 saw me earn €1230 and donated the money to Wexford Helping the Homeless. While busking, I became aware of a local group who were providing soup runs and other assistance to people living on the streets in the area. I then decided to donate my 2019 Christmas earnings to them.  2020 proved challenging and my chances to get out and busk were rare due to Covid-19.

As winter approached, I began to worry about my ability to busk for the homeless as the restrictions would prevent me from doing so. I adopted a plan B which was to write, record and release my own charity single. “Last Christmas” is written from the perspective of a homeless couple who are sitting and watching everyone else prepare for Christmas. People fuss and running around worrying about gifts. All the homeless couple can do is to try help each other through the cold nights and days, and hope for a better tomorrow. They realise they have each other, that they have the greatest gift of all, love.

While researching homeless services, I found Brother Kevin and the Capuchin Homeless Centre. Brother Kevin’s belief of non-judgmental help, that anyone that came for help would be helped really rang home with my own beliefs that anyone from any walk of life could face this issue someday. I decided that all proceeds from my song would go to this fantastic service. I was hesitant to ask people for donations due to the hard year so many have faced, so I decided my main aim would be to get as many plays as possible on Spotify. The song is also available to purchase on iTunes. And to try and really raise funds to help, I set up a PayPal account. All money raised is going to the Capuchin Homeless Services. Between sales, streams and generous donations, the current figure stands at just over €1000 euro.

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Wednesday Warrior Noah Sheerin is walking an astonishing 120km over Advent to raise money for St Vincent De Paul. This is his story…

For each of the 24 days of Advent, we are doing a 5km walk to raise money for St Vincent De Paul. That’s 120km in total!! We are doing the walk no matter what the weather, rain, sleet, snow or cold because homeless people can’t get away from bad weather either.

The reason I am doing this is because every Friday my brother, sister, mum and I would go to a petrol station and get a treat. There would be a poor homeless man sitting beside the station. We would always give him something to eat and drink. One time I saw other people giving him food and water and that just made me feel really happy to see everyone helping him.

Some of the nights we have been walking have been very cold and rainy and it’s terrible to think of those poor people who don’t have somewhere warm to sleep or anything to eat. So if you can please donate to help the homeless. Also, thank you very much to everyone who has donated so far, we really appreciate it!!!

We will walk to the SVP Carlow Hostel on 24th December and donate the money to them.  We have been talking to Barbara Murphy there and we are so grateful for the work they do for the homeless.

Kaitlyn Whelan Kinsella from Wexford

Earlier this year, 20-year-old Kaitlyn Whelan Kinsella from Wexford posted a video to Instagram sharing her experience of losing her young brother Jack to suicide two years ago. She told Shonagh about the video which went on to be viewed over 150,000 times. This is her story:

 

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“I recorded this video for myself, purely to let my thoughts and feelings out when I became overwhelmed the night before Jacks anniversary. It then crossed my mind that maybe videoing my thoughts and sharing to people what I had to say would benefit someone, even just one person. I made a promise to Jack, for what would have been his 15th birthday, that I would be as kind a person as I could possibly be. I set myself a goal for that year ahead to spread more awareness and try help other people in similar situations. Jack devoted every day he spent with family, friends and classmates to making them smile, as well as being so active and outgoing and having a laugh! However, he was bullied from a young age and had suicidal thoughts for a few years which we only discovered shortly before his passing. It never stopped him from standing up for others whom were being treating wrongly, and he was helping others in any way he could by being the kindest young boy I knew.”

I’m addressing the importance it is for everyone to read these posts online about suicide/anxiety/depression. The posts on little things you can do to help someone, how to deal with your own emotions and information on who you can call when in a similar situation. I didn’t think I needed to know anything to do with mental health and I regret so deeply having that mindset because then when my own little brother mentioned suicide my whole world spun around and I couldn’t balance. Please educate yourselves and keep up to date with the tips on how to keep an eye on your loved ones and how to deal with your own mental health! It is so important to be kind to one another. Setting yourself a task of just one kind gesture a day could potentially save someone’s life.

I posted this video to help one person, and the feedback I have gotten is amazing. I have helped so many people, way more than I would have imagined and a lot of people have come to me explaining how I’ve made them realise how precious that time with loved ones really is. I’ve been smiling constantly since I posted reading the amazing messages. I hope everyone can be kind now over Christmas because you never know what someone is going through and please send my video on to someone who you think may need to hear it. Remember it’s ok not to be ok.

If you are affected by any issue in this article, please contact Pieta House on 1800-247247 or the Samaritans by telephoning 116 123 (free) or by emailing [email protected]

 Cottage Autism Network

CAN or Cottage Autism Network is a voluntary group in Wexford who support young people on the Autism Spectrum and their families.

Shonagh caught up with Mary Ryan to hear about what they do and a recent video they made.

The video is to celebrate Wexford, the use of Lámh sign, promoting awareness of communication for non-verbal people, building awareness of Autism, taking our hats off to Wexford GAA for how much they have contributed and continue to contribute to making inclusion a top priority for their organisation, and the coming together of community to make a real difference in people’s lives.

Wexford GAA are collaborating with IT Carlow to do research on the benefits of GAA for kids on the Autism Spectrum. Things like behaviour changes, physical literacy, manual dexterity etc. Hoping to start in September 2021. What a huge step forward for the GAA, the Autism community and Wexford as a whole 💜💛

CAN – Cottage Autism Network CLG is a voluntary group in Wexford who support young people on the Autism Spectrum and their families. The group run various weekly social activities pre-Covid including coding, horse riding, swimming, lego club and a series of #Sundayfunday days out to local amenities like Wells House, the Irish National Heritage Park and Johnstown Castle.

The aim of these activities is to encourage families to get out and about and to offer these young people the same opportunities to attend social activities as their peers. CAN also organise parent/Carer courses and has been successful in securing funding from the WWETB and the National Lottery in recent years to support a photography course, art therapy, woodcarving and chocolate making to name a few.

Baby Harrison

“There is no cure, clinical trial, surgery, or drug that will fix Harrison.”

This week Shonagh caught up with James from Tipp & his partner Elizabeth. They moved here from New Zealand to seek help with their fertility journey.

Harrison was born after four long years of trying to make a family and after many miscarriages and a molar pregnancy. We thought we had finally achieved our long-awaited dream. The pregnancy was normal, but Harrison came into the world not breathing or moving. He was diagnosed with Myotubular Myopathy (XLMTM), a rare genetic disorder. The specialists have said he may only survive for about two years.

Since the very moment he was born he has not been able to leave the hospital. We so desperately wish to bring him back home to New Zealand and have been advised by doctors that a specialised medical flight is the only way this can happen.

We feel like we’ve been dealt the worse hand in making a family and with a difficult history behind us, we now face an uncertain future with a son born diagnosed with a fatal rare genetic disease.

We have gone through, and continue to go through, the stages of grief, from anger to despair. We find our moments of joy with our son Harrison, and are choosing to live in those. This has to be an active choice for us, or we will lose ourselves if we don’t.

We are faced with thoughts and decisions of quality of life and what we want as a family. Generally, you have a life time to figure these things out, but we now have to consider and implement them in a much shorter time frame.

Harrison will experience the world differently from other people. He is on constant breathing support, so smells won’t play as much a part of his sensory input. He also cannot swallow, or more accurately it would be dangerous for him to swallow, so taste will also be something he will not be able to experience. We want to enhance what sensory inputs we can. We would love our son to feel the sand of our favourite beach, hear the native birds in the forests, and see his family and our friends that he has never met. We want to bring our son home to provide these things for him and create the happiest and most fulfilled life we can offer for him.

What they can control is the life they provide for Harrison. With environmental conditions better suited to his disorder in New Zealand, they are looking for help to bring baby Harrison back home.

Alfie Murphy

Wexford sixth class student, 11-year-old Alfie Murphy has been dubbed an ‘entrepeneur’ after inventing a hand sanitiser that doubles as a pen to use at school.

They are called Ninja Clean and he has already sold over 2000 of them!

He caught up with Shonagh this week to tell her how he is coping with his newfound fame…

Alfie goes to the Glenbrien Holy Family Primary School and has already had to put some of his friends on a waiting list to get their hands on a pen. This week in school he got to stand up and tell his class all about his business.

He has made sure that he’s keeping it in the family with Dad Rob and Mum Yvonne lending a hand getting it onto virtual shelves at ninjaclean.eu.

Alfie told Shonagh how he has treated his mum to a ‘flat white’ to thank her for all her hard work so far! And his younger brother Archie who is five is also working hard having sold 5 or 6 pens this week!

Alfie makes sure he gets his homework done before he starts working on his orders every day!

Amy McLoughlin

Amy McLoughlin is a Leaving Cert student from Carlow who three months ago began writing for Missy.ie – Ireland’s online teen magazine. She told Shonagh about opening up in her latest article which is all about the way we talk to ourselves.

“Hey there. My name is Amy McLoughlin, I’m seventeen years old and I live in Carlow. I’m currently in sixth year at St. Leo’s College Carlow and my interests span far and wide, from musical theatre and books to competitive debating and American politics. I have always loved to write and when the opportunity to write for Missy.ie came around in August I jumped at the chance. Missy.ie is Ireland’s No. 1 teen online magazine. It was founded in 2017 by a team living and working right here in the middle of the southeast. They produce daily content on all topics. If you need advice on anything, growing up, fashion trends, what movies to watch, and answers to those questions you’re a bit nervous to ask, I can assure you, there’s an article about it on Missy.

I wrote my first piece on my worries about going back to school during Covid and how I was dealing with my newfound fear of the unknown. Since then, my articles have gone from strength to strength. With my most recent being by far my favourite. I have grown up in a world where mental health is becoming a more and more acceptable topic to discuss. How we talk to others, what we can do to make our environments as open and safe as possible and how we can flip the conversation on mental health on its head and make something that everyone feels comfortable talking and learning about. However, something that I often struggle with and see my friends and family struggling with; is the way we talk to ourselves. We often say thing something to ourselves that never in a million years would we dream of saying to a person in real life, and that is where the idea for this article came from.

Every time I have ever gotten out of the car to go somewhere my mother always says, “treat people the way you would like to be treated”. She’s right of course. But what if I invert it. What if the way that that you treat yourself and your brain is just as important as the way you treat everyone else? Treat yourself the way you would like other people to be treated. It is something much easier said than done and is a struggle for people on a daily basis. I wouldn’t be known as someone who puts themselves under a constant amount of pressure but even, I tend to do it from time to time. My advice in this piece was for people to put themselves in other people’s shoes and see that their actions are not stupid or idiotic. They are human.

The reaction I have received from this piece is truly overwhelming and something I never expected when this all began. But to think that maybe I’m making a difference to one person, that makes my day. You are a machine; you can only operate the machine if every moving part is working. Don’t let the devil on your shoulder get in the way of your life and if you ever need a chat, stop by Missy.ie online or on Instagram. Be kind to everyone you meet, but remember be kind to yourself too.”

Ellen O’Keeffe

Shonagh caught up with Ellen O’Keeffe from Waterford who is fundraising for, ‘My Canine Companion’ which provide highly trained and skilled service dogs to people with Autism. Ellen told Shonagh why it’s so important to her.

Aidan is 6-years-old, funny, loving and would brighten anybody’s day.

Aidan is also autistic. This means that he has certain struggles that other kids his age don’t have. He is severely speech delayed, has no conversational skills, no danger awareness and often gets overstimulated.

A service dog from My Canine Companion could change his life. It would give him the independence to go for walks without needing a buggy, to help keep him calm in times of anxiety and most of all be a devoted companion in a relationship that requires no words.

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It costs €10,000 to train a service dog for a child with Autism. My Canine Companion receives no government funding and relies solely on fundraising efforts in order to provide this life-changing service. We are trying to do our little bit to make sure they get the funds they need to continue to provide these dogs to children across the country.

Alice Phelan

“When a young woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in her twenties or thirties, harsh treatment such as chemo and other hormonal drugs can have long-lasting effects on her fertility. It can sometimes be a double blow.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 35 and was trying for baby number two. I had no family history of breast cancer, did not smoke, and was a healthy weight and an active mammy to one-and-a-half-year-old Billy. When the consultant told me it was cancer, my immediate response was “but I could be pregnant right now” and he replied, “well that will change things”. A couple of days later I found out I wasn’t pregnant. Looking back now I think I was equally as devastated about finding out I had cancer as I was to find out I wasn’t pregnant. I had it all mapped out in my head and from that moment on, my medical team kept telling me not to get pregnant when it was all I wanted to be. Both the fear of getting chemo and the chance of not giving Billy a sibling was heartbreaking.

Luckily for me, I found the cancer early and it hadn’t spread to my lymph nodes. I got a referral for IVF (Rotunda Hospital, Dublin). There I hoped to freeze embryos as a plan B if I had to get chemo. Two embryos fertilised! Success! The embryos were frozen and put into storage for 5 years. The knowledge of this put me at ease, it meant I had options. As the consultant at the Rotunda explicitly stated: “this is not a guarantee, it’s simply giving you options”. That was good enough for me. Weeks later, I met with my oncologist and she advised my cancer would not benefit from chemo so my treatment plan would consist of a lumpectomy, radiotherapy and hormone therapy.

Getting a cancer diagnosis at a young age catapults you into thinking about what you want in the future. You mightn’t have even thought about having kids yet. Having kids is not for everyone and hey that’s OK too! But for those that do want kids, freezing eggs or embryos might be an option (depending on your type/stage of cancer and advice from your medical team).

After many discussions with my oncologist, I was allowed to take a break from hormone therapy for one year to try to get pregnant. The plan was to try naturally for 6 months and if that didn’t work, go down the IVF route. Nothing like the pressure of a time limit to get you in the mood! Eh? If both methods failed, I was advised to go back on hormone therapy immediately. However, I got pregnant naturally and had a baby girl called Abigail Hope Power. She has brought so much happiness to our lives.

Regardless of age, breast cancer can affect women in their twenties and thirties. The youngest I’ve met is 24 and the oldest is 38. Early detection cannot only save your life but it may help preserve your fertility by undergoing less harsh treatment such as chemo and other drugs. Don’t let cancer rob you of your future choices, be proactive and check yourself monthly. If in doubt, get checked out!”

Diane Fitzharris

“When you begin your cancer treatment, you have one goal in mind; The finish line.  You imagine that once all goes well and treatment is successful that you will be skipping out of that last appointment, or so overjoyed to hear the words ‘go live your life’ from your consultant.

But unfortunately, in most cases, and something I certainly learned, was, that is not the case! You become overwhelmed, and feelings of loneliness and sadness begin to appear.

Your hair is growing back, you ‘look’ well, but how you look on the outside doesn’t always reflect how you feel on the inside. The safety net of frequent hospital appointments are taken away, you are left to your own devices and like any trauma in our lives, you begin to process what has happened and resent the cancer for how it has changed you. On top of all that, you feel guilty for feeling this way as you are so grateful to have gotten through it all but the journey continues beyond the chemo/radio ward. This is something that I would personally like to highlight as it is so common but no one along the way prepares you for this.

Many women, myself included, have to take a drug called Tamoxifen for 5-10years after chemo finishes. This is specifically for HER2 positive type breast cancer and is essentially an estrogen blocker. This can lead to early/chemical menopause which brings a whole new range of side effects and symptoms which you have to face and try to manage on a daily basis.

All that aside then, the fear of recurrence surfaces a lot and you wonder if this really is the end or ‘will it come back?’ and will you have to face it all again sometime down the line. Personally, I find taking one day at a time and trying not to look too far ahead can really help keep these fears at bay. but it is quite often easier said than done.

This is when you need to reach out for the support of your local cancer support centre or call the helpline at The Irish Cancer Society.  Chatting to someone who has been there can also be such good support, as they will know exactly how you feel and understand.”

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