Belfast Telegraph

Parents praise children's hospice

A single mother whose daughter who was given six months to live last Christmas said she would be lost without the support of staff in Ireland's first children's hospice.

Five-year-old Ellie Cunningham suffers from cytomegalovirus - a condition that has left her with no sight, hearing, brain damage, cerebral palsy and liver failure.

Despite being taken off all medical treatment, the plucky youngster is battling against the odds with her mother Amy by her side.

Ms Cunningham, 26, of Clondalkin, said: "Ellie was born with this condition so I always knew she was going to die, I never thought she would survive to five.

"If I had one wish I would wish for more time. I wouldn't change one thing about the whole journey that I had, only how much time she has left, because what we have is special. But I do not want Ellie to pass away at home, so the LauraLynn House is where is it is going to happen for us."

Based in Leopardstown, south Dublin, the hospice gives respite and palliative care to youngsters under 18 while supporting their parents and siblings. Its official opening was a nine-year dream for Jane and Brendan McKenna, who campaigned after the deaths of their daughters, Laura and Lynn, less than two years apart.

Laura was born with a heart condition which she should have survived but died following surgery on August 14, 1999 - the day after Lynn was diagnosed with leukaemia. She died at the age of 15 on April 18, 2001.

Mrs McKenna said: "Lynn very much wanted to die at home and Laura died in Our Lady's (hospital), so I experienced both. But what struck me there was no other choice."

The McKennas formed the LauraLynn Hospice Foundation and later joined forces with the Children's Sunshine Home, which already provided respite care, to raise the 5.5 million euro needed for the eight-bedroomed hospice.

President Mary McAleese, who officially opened the facility, paid tribute to the couple. She said: "The loss of a child is utterly life-altering but there are ways in which some of the dread, some of the fear, some of the awful loneliness, can be assuaged. That is what LauraLynn House exists for."

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