Saturday 3 December 2016

'He was her one and only' - Community rallies to support teen after mum (34) dies from brain aneurysm

Allan Preston

Published 23/08/2016 | 08:18

A community has rallied to support a 16-year-old boy after his mother died of a brain aneurysm.

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Donna O'Halloran (34) from Oldpark in Belfast was rushed to hospital on August 3 after suffering an aneurysm which led to a stroke. She passed away nine days later in hospital, surrounded by her family.

Now a Just Giving page for her 16-year-old son Caolan, set up by his mother's former school mates at St Gemma's High School, has raised more than £2,500.

Sinead Brown, a school friend of Donna's, was inspired to set up the page after her own sister Claire died last year leaving behind two children.

"Caolan was very much the apple of his mummy's eye, her one and only," she said.

"My niece and my nephew are still, over a year on, finding it hard to cope with losing their mum. So I can just imagine how Caolan's feeling right now. And Donna's brothers too.

Everybody is there for Caolan and that's all we can do."

Sinead said she was amazed by the fundraising response.

"My phone has been going haywire for a week, with money still coming through. We've had donations from New York, Cork, Scotland and people who don't even know Caolan but are heartbroken for him and his family." Remembering her friend, she said: "Donna was funny, smiling always, I remember her giggle when we were teenagers. She was full of life and so loving. She helped out with others and was always there for them, especially her younger cousins who were in school with us."

Fr Martin McGill from Sacred Heart Church conducted Donna's funeral service.

"From the time of the wake, and when Donna was in hospital in intensive care it would have been very clear that there was huge community support for the family, who were very well regarded," he said.

"At the funeral itself it was standing room only. So to hear so much money has been raised doesn't come as a major surprise."

As a regular at the church he remembers her as "full of life, very generous and very helpful."

Fr McGill said that what's been done for Caolan is testimony to his mum Donna.

"That whole thing of generosity would have been very much a part of her life."

Fr McGill added: "It's a difficult thing for any of us when we lose a parent, especially a mother - it can be really difficult. But for Caolan, when his GCSE results are coming through and he's going to school and he has to come to terms with that, that's not easy at all. But I would say there's very strong family support."

Following her death, Donna's organs were donated to help others.

"It's a hugely difficult thing whenever we lose a loved one in those sad, sudden circumstances," said Fr McGill. "But through the organ donations there can be such a benefit to others as well."

SDLP councillor for Oldpark, Paul McCusker, commended the fundraising.

"I was really saddened to hear of the death of Donna and it sent a shockwave across north Belfast. The way the community and her old school friends have rallied together has been totally amazing and it just shows you that although in north Belfast we often hear negative stories, this tragic story shows the real meaning of community."

"Young Caolan of course is going through a tough time and having support from the community is very important, to show people do care and will be there to help him."

A sympathy notice from Donna's son Caolan on August 17 read: "My heart feels only sadness when someone speaks your name, because I'll never hear your voice or see your face again. But dearly I still love you for headaches have no end, in losing you dear mummy, I lost my dearest friend Donna. Love you loads."

Belfast Telegraph

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