Childhood Heroes: The courageous Irish children who captured our hearts in 2015
Throughout 2015, there have been so many young people who have inspired our readers by their acts of kindness, bravery and courage. Here, we revisit some of Irish children who made a huge and inspiring difference this year.
Cian O’Farrell (4)
Little Cian O’Farrell (5) is the reason his older sister Ciara (6) is free from crippling pain for the first time in years thanks to a life-changing stem cell transplant which “transformed” her life.
The transplant of stem cells from Ciara’s little brother has transformed the life of the six year old who was suffering from a crippling form of juvenile arthritis prior to the procedure.
"Ciara is good, she is well, very happy and full of beans," her mother Deborah said speaking to Wexford People earlier this year.
"And Cian's our little hero, he kept saying "the doctor's going to take out my solar system and give it to Ciara"," she said.
"We are still on a long, hard road, but we're on the other side of it now," said Deborah.
Katelyn (6) and Nathan (4)
Nathan (4) Higginbottom and his friend Katelyn (6) saved the life of his granny Ursula Doran O’Reilly (58) when she collapsed in her home in September.
Luckily, just days before Ursula's health scare, Katelyn’s dad had shown her how to do CPR.
“Because of Katelyn’s instructions from her Dad on how to do CPR and save lives - basic first aid - they looked after me so well. I was unconscious and don’t have any recollection of it – it could have been about 40 minutes.”
“She took control, organised how to do it, lay me down, turned me on my side, kept me warm. The only thing she couldn’t do is the mouth-to-mouth because I had bitten my tongue during the seizure and was covered in blood.”
“She turned me on my side, she taught Nathan how to do compressions,”
Six year old Katelyn from Dublin said: “I [held] her nose, I couldn’t blow into her mouth because she bit her tongue.”
“We went up to get help… I said [to Nathan] push your nanny’s chest and she’ll get better, and then she got better when the ambulance came.”
Caoimhin O’Donovan (9)
Caoimhin O’Donovan (9) from Corofin Co. Clare saved his sister Shona (9) when he donated vital bone marrow after she was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia last summer.
“I was staying with my cousins while Shona was in Crumlin and I knew that her bloods were bad and I was very worried,” said the school boy.
“I always said I’d be tested and I’d try. I was tested and I was a good match. They told me that I would stay two nights in hospital and they would do the operation and put the needle into my back 50 times. I was a bit scared,” Caoimhin admitted.
Caoimhin has since recovered from the procedure and Shona is on the path to recovery after the family’s difficult few months.
“I’m very happy that I did it because not a lot of people can help their family. Shona only has one brother and I am a match. There was another girl who had a brother and a sister and none of them were a match so I’m happy I could do it for her,” he said.
Caoimhin was this year honoured with the Young Person of Courage Award at the Pride of Ireland awards.
Molly McNally (7)
Brave Molly McNally has captured the hearts of our readers throughout the last two years as she battled neuroblastoma and even inspired the Dublin Football team to take home Sam Maguire earlier this year.
Happily her dad confirmed that the seven-year-old from Balbriggan is now in remission after a difficult few years for her family.
"To us, it's our winning the Lotto, Molly being told she is in remission,” said her dad Gerry.
"She had an awful lot of extra chemotherapy. It's just the nature of the beast you are up against," said Gerry.
"I think the biggest thing for us was just relief."
Harry (10) and Molly Flynn (7)
Brave siblings, Harry (10) and Molly Flynn (7), have saved the life of their baby sister Isobel at least 100 times.
Born premature at 28 weeks, Isobel (3) has apnoea, which means that she stops breathing, with a particular tendency to do so when she is asleep or has had a shock.
Luckily the family from Waterford come from a long line of Red Cross volunteers and have been junior "T-Bears" since the age of five, with some Red Cross medical training.
Isobel was just home a couple of weeks when the first frightening incident happened when she blacked out.
Harry, then aged seven, was holding his sister in his lap in the sitting room, with the rest of the family in the kitchen when mum Maria suddenly heard him saying: "Breathe, Isobel, breathe.
She rushed into the sitting room to find her son holding the baby's nose and giving her breaths.
"She was white and purple - he was holding what looked like a dead child," Maria recalled of the terrifying episode.
Harry now says that he no longer finds it frightening when this happens to Isobel.
"It's fine because I know what to do," he shrugged.
"My family are basically the leaders in the Red Cross in Waterford so I will always be a Red Cross volunteer," Harry vowed.
Roisin Halligan (12)
Hero schoolgirl Roisin Halligan (12)was this year presented with a bravery award by President Michael D Higgins after she saved her toddler cousin's life following a petrol bomb attack on their home.
Roisin Halligan was badly burned while protecting 12-month-old Lexie after a petrol bomb was thrown into the window of her grandmother’s home in Waterford city.
"I could feel my face and my arms and legs were really hot,” she said.
"I looked down at my legs and they were all burnt.
"I just did what anyone would have done."
Roisin suffered serious burns to her leg and hand and spent six weeks in hospital after the incident.
“Her leg and hand are covered in bandages and she’ll be visiting hospital for three years,” said Roisin’s mum Sabrina.
“Roisin is our little hero. It is so amazing what she did to protect a one-year-old child,” she said.
Baby Lexie suffered facial burns but has completely recovered.
Shan Tynan (17)
Waterford teenager Shan Tynan’s life was turned upside down last year when she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Histiocytosis X after she began losing her hair and developing lesions on her scalp.
“In that moment I began to crumble and my mam went pale,” said Shan.
“I still can't remember leaving or the drive home it was all surreal like an outer body experience.”
The teenager is currently undergoing intensive chemotherapy which will continue throughout the next twelve months as she prepares for further treatment in Texas Children’s Hospital.
“It's when you’re on the floor in the bathroom resting your face on a toilet seat with your mam rubbing your back that you feel these moments of sheer weakness,” said Shan.
“It's these moments of sheer weakness that truly make you angry at this disease. It's then when you feel totally helpless and know you’re sick.
“I'm not sure what you're angry at. The disease? The world? God, if there is one? Then comes the ‘Why me’?
“Everyone tells me I'm strong and honestly when I look at everything I feel strong, the weak moments done define me the strong ones do.
“They get me to tomorrow and give me a peek into my future, the future I want full of love, travel, adventure and good health,” she said.
Ella Murphy O’Connor (6)
Ella Murphy O'Connor was presented with the ‘Young Hero’ award at this year’s Hidden Heroes ceremony after she was nominated by her nurse Jackie Linnane.
The brave six-year-old girl born with dwarfism is ventilator dependent but does not let her condition hold her back.
"She might be small in her height but she is a big hero," said Jackie.
Ella’s mum Diane revealed that the six-year-old loves Zumba, basketball and cycling.
“She was diagnosed at ten months old and we were sent home under palliative care,” she said.
“Now she is six and we are all so delighted with this award. She’s just always happy and loves life.”
Jamie Harrington (17)
Irish teenager Jamie Harrington (17) was hailed a hero after he stopped to help a stranger in distress, who was attempting to take his own life on a Dublin bridge.
"I saw this guy in his thirties sitting on the ledge of the bridge.
“I stopped and asked him if he was okay but I knew from the look in his eyes he wasn't,” Jamie said.
After pleading with the man, Jamie managed to convince him to come down from the bridge’s ledge and then called an ambulance.
“I pleaded with him for a while to come down and sit on the steps, and eventually he did.
“We sat on the sidewalk on the south side of the Liffey and talked for about 45 minutes... about what was happening to him and why was he feeling that way,” said Jamie.
Following his good deed, Jamie kept in touch with the man whose life he had saved and recently received a text in which he repaid Jamie’s kindness.
“And about three months ago, he texted me that his wife is pregnant. They're having a boy and they're naming him after me.
“He said in that moment that I approached him he was just about to jump and those few words saved his life.
Archie (9), George and Issac (5)
Paula Naughton, the mum of brothers Archie, George and Issac has called out for greater services to help children with terminal illnesses in Ireland.
The Roscommon boys were diagnosed with neuromuscular disease Ducheene Muscular Dystrophy on the same day more than two years ago
The degenerative illness is terminal and does not have a cure.
Paula and her husband Padraig set up the charity Join Our Boys to help fundraise for research and a possible cure for the disease which affects more than 120 children in Ireland.
Paula said the outpouring of support from around the country helped the family cope.
"Archie is getting significantly worse, it's so difficult. We are both nurses and we're just standing back watching him and there's nothing we can do, it's just horrific," she said.
“It’s a challenge to get out there when your three children are terminally ill and there’s nothing that can be done. It’s very very difficult.”