Farmily’s embryonic idea to aid hospice after its ‘amazing’ care for rare illness battler Andrew
Cattle breeders have rallied around a Co Tyrone boy with a rare illness by putting valuable cow embryos up for sale in an unusual auction.
Andrew McFarland (8) from Trillick lives with a rare neurodegenerative condition - a variant form of late infantile Batten disease (CLN5) which causes blindness, complex epilepsy and the loss of mobility and the ability to communicate.
His health deteriorated rapidly last year and his parents Joanne and Graham were told he may not survive past Christmas.
To thank the NI Children's Hospice for their care during this traumatic period, Andrew's uncle Howard McFarland came up with the novel idea of selling two of his prized Limousin cattle embryos - worth thousands of pounds - in Ballymena next Monday.
Members of the British Limousin Cattle Society added their backing, with farmers from across the UK donating further embryos for a second auction in Carlisle this Saturday.
Andrew's mother said she was overwhelmed by the support.
"The donations have been extremely generous, but particularly breeders in the mainland who have their own hospices to support and yet there they are donating to ours," she said.
Andrew had no serious health problems until he began to lose his sight aged five, with his condition formally diagnosed in September last year.
"He had been in hospital for two months having uncontrollable seizures, had pneumonia and was in intensive care," Mrs McFarland said.
"The only way we got to spend Christmas together was thanks to the hospice. The staff there gave up their holiday so we could have ours together.
"We were told he wouldn't get home. But we prayed for him and he did get home.
"Andrew's sister Faith had been from pillar to post being looked after by one family member to the next.
"She hadn't seen us and we hadn't seen her properly. It was just so good to have the four of us together for the first time in two months."
Describing her son, she said: "Andrew's gorgeous, he's absolutely beautiful. He's sitting here and I'm giving him his medicine and he's got the biggest brown eyes and a lovely smile. He's such a happy wee boy. Faith makes him laugh so much too."
Andrew's father Graham added: "The staff at Northern Ireland Hospice are simply amazing, nothing whatsoever is a problem for them. There was always someone on hand if needed and we were looked after in every way. We managed to have some very valuable quality time with our close family."
David Hamill from the NI Limousin Cattle Club helped to organise the Ballymena auction and said the farming community was making regular donations to support the family.
The British Limousin Cattle Society said that "members have way exceeded expectations with their donations".
It added: "The club and the McFarland family are staggered and humbled by the support the event has attracted from the Limousin community; they pass on their heartfelt thanks."
A fundraising page has also been set up to raise further funds for the NI Hospice.
It can be found at JustGiving.com by searching for NI Limousin Cattle Club.