Friday 22 June 2018

'It restores your faith in human kindness' - Young mum 'overwhelmed' by donations for €100k life-saving surgery

Zondra Meaney (33), from Limerick, at home with her son Carrick (10). Photo: Liam Burke/Press 22
Zondra Meaney (33), from Limerick, at home with her son Carrick (10). Photo: Liam Burke/Press 22
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A YOUNG woman hoping to undergo life-saving surgery admitted she was "totally overwhelmed" by the response to a special appeal for help.

Zondra Meaney (33) from Raheen, Limerick needs to raise €100,000 to undergo major neurosurgery in Spain for a side-effect of her exceptionally rare Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS).

The mother-of-one had raised €22,000 through family, friends and supporters.

Her appeal was highlighted on Independent.ie on Wednesday - and, within just 12 hours, the amount raised had more than doubled.

Dorothy Meaney with daughter Zondra and grandson Carrick. Photo: Brian Gavin Press 22
Dorothy Meaney with daughter Zondra and grandson Carrick. Photo: Brian Gavin Press 22

Zondra now has received pledges of €51,000 - getting her halfway towards a target she had started to despair of reaching.

"The donations have been just amazing," Zondra said.

"We are totally overwhelmed by people's kindness and generosity."

Zondra said that what was most remarkable was the kindness shown to her by people she had never met.

Donations flooded in throughout yesterday - with one kind donor pledging €3,000.

Zondra and her mother, Dorothy, wept when they realised she now had a fighting chance of reaching her goal.

Her family were similarly overcome with emotion at the response to the Independent.ie appeal.

"It restores your faith in human kindness," one friend said.

EDS is comprised of rare, usually inherited, genetic conditions that drastically affect connective tissue - the so-called 'building blocks' of the body.

Zondra's condition has now progressed to the point where she urgently needs to undergo major neurosurgery in Spain to save her life.

The surgery cannot be provided in Ireland where there is no specialist here who treats the condition.

Zondra said she is desperate to secure the treatment so she can help raise her son, Carrick (10).

"I was born with the condition which is genetic," she said.

"When I was 19 years old I was told I had a muscular problem."

Zondra gave birth to her son, Carrick, when she was 22 and her health problems became more pronounced.

One Irish doctor suspected the young woman might have EDS but said she needed to see a specialist to confirm it.

It was only in 2014 when Zondra attended the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth in London that she was officially diagnosed with EDS.

Zondra says the symptoms can vary enormously from one person to the next, making diagnosis exceptionally difficult.

"In my case, EDS affects my skin, joints, tendons, ligaments, bowel and blood vessels."

Zondra's skull was also misshapen, causing part of her brain to press on the spinal cord known as a Chiari Malformation.

"Only around 20pc of EDS patients have this. It causes problems with my eyesight, it affects the strength and feeling in my legs, and causes intense headaches. I can only stay upright for two hours at a time."

Zondra needs to undergo major surgery in Barcelona in Spain to help ease the pressure on her brain stem.

Without the surgery, there is a serious risk to Zondra's life as the pressure on her brain and spinal chord threatens her with potential stroke, paralysis or major neurological problems.

"I want to help raise Carrick - to be around to see him grow up," she said.

"I think it is what every mother wants for their child - just to be around for them."

"He is such a wonderful, brave boy and I want to be there for him."

Zondra is now largely confined to a wheelchair, with the effort of walking even a few steps exhausting and painful for her.

The young Limerick mother admitted that the impact of her EDS condition is, at times, far worse than the pain she endured during child birth.

Zondra has also had to undergo specialist treatment in a London hospital every three months.

This can involve up to 40 cranial injections.

However, after her last trip to London she developed a pulmonary embolism which has prevented her from travelling back for follow-up treatment.

Doctors believe that, to access the life-saving Barcelona surgery, she may have to be brought to Spain by air ambulance.

A series of major events, co-ordinated by Zondra's friends and the I Love Limerick group, will take place over the next few weeks.

Zondra is currently being cared for by her mother, Dorothy.

Such as been Dorothy's devotion to her daughter that she was honoured last year as Ireland's 2017 Carer of the Year.

Details of Zondra's Appeal and how to help her are available from here.

Zondra Meaney Fund, EBS Crescent Shopping Centre, Dooradoyle, Limerick Ac/No:

45262128 IBAN: IE17EBSI93902145262128 and BIC: EBSIIE2DSDD

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