10 courageous Irish children and how they inspired us in 2016
Throughout 2016, there have been so many young people who have inspired our readers with their immense bravery.
Here, we revisit some of Irish children who made a huge and inspiring difference this year with their astounding courage and their strength through adversity.
Conor Campbell Perrie (5)
Seven-year-old Conor Campbell Perrie saved the life of his uncle Derek this year, when he recognised the symptoms of a diabetic coma.
The brave second-class student from Dublin alerted paramedics just in time, saving his beloved uncle from a grim fate.
Speaking to Independent.ie, Conor’s dad Robert said: “The paramedics made a big deal out of him and were calling him a little hero.
“Conor and Derek are mad about each other, they have great fun. It was great for him to get this award, he’s delighted. It’s been a real boost to his confidence and he’s been showing his certificate off in school,” said Robert.
Batman Ben (5)
The nation mourned the death of the late Ben Farrell (5) in August, whose bravery in his battle against cancer touched the hearts of thousands.
The five-year-old nicknamed ‘Batman’ was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer last Christmas Eve and tragically lost his fight earlier this year.
The little boy is the inspiration for a charity single ‘Ben’ released this Christmas on iTunes in his memory, sung by Aslan singer Christy Dignam’s daughter Kiera.
Speaking to Independent.ie, Ben’s mum Val Farrell said: “Through Ben we hope to find the strength to continue. We hope to continue to be inspired to live as fully as he did and we hope to continue to allow Ben's smile to change the world for the better.... we hope to make him proud.”
Aoife Hayes (18)
Irish teenager Aoife Hayes bravely opened up about her struggle with Anorexia Nervosa on RTE's Ryan Tubridy Show earlier this year. The teenager battled with the eating disorder for two years and in December 2014, her condition had deteriorated so much she had to leave school. Soon after was admitted to CALM Unit where she began treatment.
“I just wanted to show people. I know a lot of people suffer from mental illnesses and that they’re ashamed to show it.
“As I put on the weight I realised there was more stuff I could do. I coped by writing down how I felt and showing it to somebody or keeping it to myself. I began doing yoga and I realised that I was only able to do those things when I had reached a certain weight that I wasn’t able to do before.
“Some days I have very down days. I’m still on medication and in therapy. There are still certain foods I struggle with but I’m doing much better".
The teenager returned to school in September and plans to resit her Leaving Certificate in June with hopes of becoming a psychiatric nurse.
“I want to do Mental Health nursing. When I was in hospital I wanted someone who had been in my situation to tell me that things could get better and I want to be that someone for someone else.”
Rory Gallagher (4)
Four-year-old Rory Gallagher captured our readers' heart this year with his determination and courage. The little boy was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at eight months old and his family were told he would never walk or talk.
After much fundraising, the little boy travelled to Missouri, USA this month for further life changing surgery, and every day he is making huge strives towards walking independently.
Speaking to Independent.ie Rory’s mum Shauna said: “One thing that I can say about Rory is that he is very determined, he is very happy and he is full of hope.”
"The surgeries will change little Rory's life... if people can get behind me to help me give my little boy the life I think he deserves, it will mean everything to me."
Dublin Fire Brigade invited the four-year-old to join their crew for a day in October, which his mum said was incredible to watch.
Ailbhe Byrne (4)
Ailbhe Byrne might seem like an average four-year-old, but to the team at Holles Street Maternity Hospital she is nothing short of a miracle.
Born at 23 weeks and six days, Ailbhe weighed just 440g when she was delivered by emergency Caesarean section in October 2012 and was the smallest baby to ever survive birth in Holles Street.
Ailbhe’s mum Derval said: “She was extremely sick initially and they were very honest about her chance of surviving. Many children born as prematurely as Ailbhe live with catastrophic consequences physically and intellectually. My husband Conor and I were taking it day by day
“The first milestone was when she survived 24 hours and then when she survived a week. She was ventilated for the first ten weeks of her life,” said Derval.
“For whatever reason, she survived and doesn’t have any physical or intellectual deficits. She’s hit all her milestones.
“As parents to a premmy baby, you have so many ups and downs and I feel so fortunate to have a happy healthy four-year-old which wouldn’t have been the case without the amazing team at Holles Street,” she said.
Ceejay McArdle (4)
Honorary Garda Ceejay McArdle captured our hearts this year after An Garda Siochana commended him for his bravery throughout his battle with leukaemia.
The little boy joined the latest group of Garda graduates in Templemore last summer, where he officially became a member of the force.
Ceejay’s mum Susan spoke about her little boy’s courage in spite of the aggressive treatment he has received to battle the disease, which he was diagnosed with at age two.
"Every parent's dream is to watch their child grow up and graduate; we just never dreamt in a million years our special little boy would be graduating just five days off his fourth birthday," Susan said. "Ceejay was asked recently was he going to be a garda when he grew up, to which he replied 'eh, I am a Garda already'."
Emily Duggan (13)
Laois teenager Emily Duggan used a hurl to haul her younger brother out of an old septic tank he had fallen in to, unable to move his body to free himself.
The siblings’ mum Sonya Duggan said that Justin was lucky to have been in the hands of quick thinking Emily and said that her family was extremely fortunate not to have been hit by tragedy that day.
“The boys didn’t really know what to do, but Emily just grabbed her brother James’ hurl and managed to get Justin out. He couldn’t move his arms and legs in the tank, and was sinking and sinking so it was very lucky.
“Only for Emily he would have drowned,” she said.
Jamie Fetherson (10)
Jamie’s story came to the forefront earlier this year, when he opened up about the loss of his dad Andy Morgan, who died by suicide when he was four.
Speaking on the Humans of Dublin page, Jamie spoke about his favourite photo of his dad, which was lovingly retouched by his mum to include the ten-year-old.
"My favourite photo of my dad is one of him sitting on a bench in Poland,” said Jamie in a post on Humans of Dublin.
“He was on holiday there with my mam when I was little. When I went on holiday to Poland last year I really wanted to find the same bench and have my picture taking on it. So I did. It was great sitting where my dad sat years ago.
“My mam got my photo blended with my dad's photo and it looked like we were both sitting on the bench beside each other. It made me so happy because I finally knew what it would look like if my dad was with me here today,” he said.
“I love my dad and I'm proud to be his son,” said Jamie.
Maria Spirge (1)
One-year-old Maria is living with a painful and rare skin condition epidermolyis bullosa (EB) and has to be bandaged almost from head to toe to protect her from everyday life.
The baby from Blanchardstown faces a painful daily battle because of the disorder which causes the skin’s layers and internal body linings to blister and wound at the slightest touch.
Speaking to Independent.ie, Maria’s mum Gunita said: "When it's severe what EB does to the skin is scary. Children like Maria cannot have a normal childhood. There will be no playing in the playground for her. Even in her own bedroom everything has to be padded.
"This is why we need research to help find a cure and better treatment, it is the only thing that is going to help these children and the adults who have EB.”
Saoirse Brophy (8)
Earlier this year, Saoirse fulfilled her dream of becoming a Dublin zookeeper for a day thanks to the Make a Wish Foundation. The little girl lives with Cystic Fibrosis and her mum said her day at the zoo gave her a welcome break from her strict daily routine.
“Everyone at the zoo and in Make a Wish went so above and beyond for Saoirse and it made the day so magical,” said mum Siobhan.
“The trip to the zoo really gave Saoirse a boost, it was wonderful to see. Despite everything, Saoirse rarely complains and it’s so admirable how she just gets on with it.
“Our day usually starts at six in the morning when Saoirse has physio followed by her nebuliser. Then she had six different medications before school.
“Before she eats anything Saoirse has to take enzymes to help her break down her food and when she comes home she must take her nebuliser once again, and then once more before bed. She never argues and she’s so brave," said Siobhan.