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Panto brings some festive cheer to brave Northern Ireland kids battling serious illness

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 05/12/2015

Rachael and daughter Faith Gillespie
Rachael and daughter Faith Gillespie
Shantell and son Tristin Mitchell
Catriona and son Caoimhin Adams
Natalia and daughter Nadia Klemka
Kathleen and daughter Seanain McCallion

Brave children from across Northern Ireland battling serious illness were all smiles yesterday thanks to a special Christmas pantomime.

The actors from the Stage and Production House were responsible for the festive cheer when they visited the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children yesterday to showcase their production of Sleeping Beauty.

The inspirational children who are battling serious and at times life-threatening conditions, were treated to a morning of laughs, songs and festive cheer. Among the audience was five-year-old Faith and mum Rachael Gillespie. The little girl from Belfast, who has dilated cardiomyopathy, was at the hospital to see her cardiologist.

"She took heart failure when she was four and a half months old due to a virus and she visits the cardiologist every six months, " her mum explained.

"When Faith first took sick she was in hospital for six months - it was her first Christmas and New Year here."

Her mum said it was an extra special day as they received "very good news".

"Her heart is pretty much back to normal after five years. We are just delighted."

Also enjoying the performance was four-year-old Seanain McCallion from Derry with her mum Kathleen.

Seanain who has spina bifida and hydrocephalus - which is a build-up of fluid on the brain - had been in hospital for nine days.

"We were up here for about three months after she was born, in and out of theatre and intensive care," her mum said.

"Over the past four years she has been diagnosed with a number of other conditions that has meant she has had to have surgeries.

"It is great to have the panto. Because the kids are so sick it is a positive feeling for them all. It is nice because you see them smile even though they are going through so much.

"To have some sort of normality is the biggest part. When I'm in hospital I'm away from my family. I've two other kids at home and it is difficult for them to visit.

"But no matter what she goes through she has a smile on her face."

It was an even more special day for nine-year-old Tristan Mitchell from Ballymena who left hospital yesterday after nearly eight weeks of treatment.

He has so far undergone 27 surgeries for numerous conditions.

"The panto was nice, very entertaining," he said.

"It just takes your mind off all the stuff. I'm just looking forward to going back home now."

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