Part Two of Two
Are you wondering at this stage exactly what we were looking for in Leinster House last Wednesday? Take it away, Jennifer:
“The reason that we were there was to inform as many TDs and Senators as possible about the work of Hand in Hand; and more importantly the impact that work has on families who have a child with cancer, in the hope that those same TDs and Senators will support our applications for funding which will enable us to take our services to all affected families in Ireland.
We at Hand in Hand feel that it is long overdue that children with cancer and their families are given the necessary support throughout their child’s treatment—and that is treatment which can often extend to years. To this end we plan to establish Ireland’s first and only children’s cancer support centre.”
One of the first to arrive was Roscommon-South Leitrim TD Denis Naughten, who initially was curious as to what was the difference between Hand in Hand and the Jack and Jill Foundation. Jennifer informed him that there are two main differences:
“Firstly, they exclude malignancy from their criteria; and secondly, they only work with children up to the age of four.”
He then noted that it seemed to him obvious that the support in place for adults with cancer was well organized due to there being pre-existing structures in place. Jennifer agreed, commenting:
“There are national, regional and local supports throughout the country which are targeted towards adults. Whilst some of those offer some of their services to children there is no single consistent, comprehensive support group available that is specifically dedicated to children with cancer.”
Another man expressing a lot of interest was Fine Gael’s Joe McHugh. As it happens, Hand in Handcurrently support seven families from Joe’s native Donegal, so his concern is understandable.
By now it seemed that the beautiful spread that had been laid out by the Leinster House caterer Gráinne and her team would be going unexplored—at least, sadly, by me!—as it was quickly becoming obvious, to our great delight, that the coffee morning was going to be quite a success.
I was delighted to renew my acquaintance with Dympna Cawley, the marvelous Assistant Director of Nursing at Our Lady’s Hospital, Crumlin. I have a bit of a soft spot for Dympna as she was one of the first professionals that I spoke to after joining Hand in Hand and I’ll be forever grateful for the fact that she didn’t regard me as the complete idiot that I was undoubtedly coming across as. And she reminded me again of how pertinent she finds our work:
“Without the kind of support that you give, our parents would be forced to struggle even more than they already have to. It is so important that they not be overwhelmed and engulfed by the enormity of everything that is happening to them, that they hold on to some sort of quality of life as much as is possible. What Hand in Hand tends to—things like the shopping, the washing, the child care… The lack of help with those things, believe it or not, can make or break a family.
Look. From a parent’s point-of-view, they’re just recovering from that initial diagnosis. They are shell-shocked, numbed, every word you can find in the dictionary about feelings. What you are doing is about putting something like normality back into their lives. It’s what they need—hands-on care.”
Whew, Dympna, don’t stop talking. I could listen to you all day!
Then came a moment I’m not likely to forget in a hurry, because as I finished talking with Dympna, up came my introduction to the Independent Galway West TD, Noel Grealish.
Now, obviously I had heard a lot about him, as he has been a great friend to Hand in Hand, but in my brief time with the charity I hadn’t actually met him and no one had told me what a larger-than-life, exuberant and enormously enthusiastic character—yes, that’s the word I’m looking for—he is. I’ll say no more for the moment as I’ll be meeting Noel as soon as we all get St. Patrick’s Day out of the way; and I must say that’s one chat I’m really looking forward to.
It would be a bit on the redundant side to repeat each and every question since they tended to go along the same lines. I do believe, though, that all seven of us answered them to everyone’s satisfaction; and needless to say, if there are further questions, then we are in the office 24-hours-a-day. Well, Jennifer is, anyway.
Hand in Hand is enormously appreciative of the effort that Senator Healy Eames has gone to on our behalf. We are also grateful to everyone who took time out of their schedules in order to hear what we had to say.
Of course, now comes the hard part. It is essential that those who listened to us on Wednesday now take it to the next level— and that is to do everything they possibly can that will help us to expand in order to meet the increasing demands from outside what was once our normal geographical area.
Quite frankly, there is no room for tokenism; there is no room for hollow promises; there is no room for hoping that we will go away content at hearing some soothing verbals. We’re not going to.
We need to see solid actions accompanying the encouraging words.
It is as simple as that.