Ill mother tries to help other parents
A BRAVE mother battling a life-threatening brain illness is hoping to set up a childcare facility for parents with serious medical problems.
Sharon Houlihan (34) has already set up a website to offer support and information to people diagnosed with rare conditions after coming through seven operations herself.
Diagnosed last year with a brain aneurism caused by an inoperable arteriovenous malformation, she is now waiting on funding to travel to the UK for a course of gamma radiation therapy which is not available here.
"Without the radiation I'm still at risk of a brain haemorrhage or a stroke," she said yesterday.
Experts originally thought that her condition was untreatable but, having survived seven operations, she is now a candidate for radiation treatment.
Ms Houlihan, from Slieverue, Co Kilkenny, first became ill in April of last year -- after having her second child -- and visited her GP and hospitals a number of times suffering from headaches, dizziness and visual problems before eventually finding out what was wrong with her.
"For me, to walk into a hospital where they don't know what's wrong with you is something that I'll never forget," she said.
That lack of information, along with the loneliness of dealing with a devastating illness, prompted her to set up the Sharonsplace.ie website earlier this year.
"People need to be able to log on and say, 'I've something rare'. It's for when you wake up at 4am and want to talk to somebody or find someone who has the same illness."
She and her husband Jim have two sons -- Dean (5) and Alex (19 months) -- and they have been relying on the help of family, friends and neighbours to survive.
"I'm very, very tired and I can't mind the kids," she said. "The fear is that, if I have a stroke, I can't expect a five-year-old to try and deal with that."
Eventually Sharon wants to establish a Sharon's place premises where support such as childcare will be available to parents who find themselves in a similar position.