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'They played a blinder': Praise for volunteers who help young children during long hospital stays

Children in Hospital Ireland is looking for people to host a coffee morning for the charity on Wednesday.

16-month-old Liam Tomney
16-month-old Liam Tomney
Image: Rebecca Tomney

16-MONTH-OLD Liam Tomney spent the first 10 months of his life in and out of Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin. 

He was born with a bilateral cleft palate and has issues with his bowel which led to him being tube-fed for a number of months. 

“He just cried constantly for seven months,” his mother, Rebecca Tomney, told TheJournal.ie.

Eventually, Liam received a diagnosis that his bowel had not formed correctly, and at seven and a half months old he had a bowel resection. 

In total, he had six surgeries during the first 10 months of his life. 

“We could spend weeks at a time in hospital. For those nine and a half, 10 months, we were more in hospital than we were at home,” Rebecca said. 

During this time, Rebecca and her husband Martin got help from both their parents, so Liam always had someone by his side.

Nonetheless, with Martin at work at times, it was a difficult period for the couple. 

“It was hard, it was tiring,” she said. 

Children in Hospital Ireland

After a number of months, Rebecca approached Children in Hospital Ireland, a voluntary organisation which provides support and play services to children in Irish hospitals.

Volunteers spend time with sick children, doing crafts with them, playing games or reading to them for a short period to keep them entertained. It also gives parents a chance to take a break.

The Dublin mother began availing of the charity’s services, which provided them with the much needed relief when her husband was at work or her parents weren’t around. 

“The first time the [volunteers] came down to me, I was able to go and have a shower. I know that sounds stupid, but I was able to come back to my house, I was able to sit down and give the dogs a cuddle and have a shower,” she said. 

“They stayed with him and they played with him for an hour.”

Rebecca said she always felt at ease leaving Liam with the volunteers, as they had experience in hospital settings. 

“He was in isolation for a lot of the time. So they’d come in, they’d put their gowns on and you just had peace of mind that if something happened, if he was really bad, they’d stick their head out and call a nurse,” she said.

“You didn’t mind leaving him for those 20 minutes,” she added. 

“Liam was so upset with his bowel before he got diagnosed that it was a case that he just needed distraction and play. The girls just played a blinder.” 

When asked how Liam is doing now, she added: “He’s brilliant, he’s reaching all his milestones.” 

Liam’s mother spoke to TheJournal.ie ahead of Children in Hospital Ireland’s Cuppa and Cookie annual fundraiser, which takes place on Wednesday, 20 November. 

Now in its third year, funds raised by the event will be used to support the play services that the charity provide in 14 hospitals around the country. 

Children in Hospital Ireland is looking for people to host a coffee morning for the charity on Wednesday, or any day that suits over the next month. 

Calling on people to help out with the fundraiser, Rebecca said: “I realised that the medics, the cleaners, everybody is important. They all get paid, these people do it for free. They give their own time, they love what they do, you can see it. 

“When somebody is giving up their own time … they could be at home with their own families, but they’re coming in to give you a break … that alone is amazing.” 

Anyone who is interested in setting up a coffee morning for Children in Hospital Ireland can email info@childreninhospital.ie. 

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