Saturday 16 December 2017

Mum with cancer pleads for support for son with special needs as brother (24) steps into carer role

'All I want is to have my little family together'

Ann with her sons Conor and Colin
Ann with her sons Conor and Colin

Claire Fox

A mum who is undergoing treatment for cancer says she doesn't know who will care for her son with special needs, as she is no longer able to look after him.

Colin Grassick (20) from Drumcondra, Dublin has Prader Willi syndrome and needs 24-hour care.

His 24-year-old brother Conor is currently providing Colin with round-the-clock care as his mother, Ann, is unable to look after him.

Ann Grassick said that Colin will soon need special care as Conor will be returning to his job as a Special Needs Assistant in Fairview in August and she doesn’t know if she’ll ever be able to look after Colin the way she did before her diagnosis.

Ann with her son Colin
Ann with her son Colin

The mother-of-two spoke about her plight last May, however her situation has still not changed.

“He needs ample care and we need to prepare for that now. If Colin kicks off in the morning and says he’s not leaving myself and Conor know that we can use reverse psychology and say that’s fine and he’ll come back 10 minutes later and will say he’ll go,” Ann told

“The pressure will be on Conor in August when he goes back to his job as he’ll need to get out the door. So Colin will need a carer and one that he’s comfortable with,” she explained.

While doctors at Beaumont Hospital have called Ann their “success story” as she entered the hospital with an extremely low blood count of 4.6, Ann is in need of a very complex bone marrow transplant which has multiple risks. She said that after the operation she would need to be put in isolation and is worried about the pressure that this will place on her two sons.

“There’s a huge risk with this transplant. You just never know. Colin is distraught with me being sick and Conor says he’ll be OK as long as he gets to see me but if I’ve to go into isolation he won’t be able to,” added the mum.

According to the mother-of-two, the type of care that Colin needs is expensive as he also has autism and is prone to self-harm.

Care4Colin fundraising banner
Care4Colin fundraising banner

“Ideally he needs 2:1 care. He is very high on the autism spectrum and hoards books and pens and if he loses the top of one of those pens he can have an episode and go from 0-10 million in 10 seconds. He would need someone to intervene which is a very expensive type of care to get but I’m sure he’s not the only person in Ireland who needs it."

Anne told that her eldest son Conor has now taken on the role of “worrying about Colin”, which she has had for so long.

“He’s 24 and under pressure and trying to make sure that Conor isn’t distressed,” said Ann.

Minister with responsibility for Disabilities Finian McGrath said on Thursday night he has been working closely with the Grassick family and addressing their needs.

The minister said that upon hearing about the family recently he immediately instructed his office to contact the HSE to arrange for Colin's care plan to be reviewed while his mother was receiving hospital treatment.  He said that the HSE put in a plan which included significant home care hours.

"At all times the Ministers office including his Special Advisor kept in touch with the family's nominated spokeperson while the revised plan was put in place,"  a statement from the minister’s office read.

The minister said he is determined to ensure that the Grassicks get all the help they need but said he needs the family to liaise with his office to determine the further help they require.

Conor was diagnosed with Dyslexia and ADHD when he was 16-years-old but said that from an early age he always had a “strong bond” with Colin.

“He’s had a massive impact on my life. From when I was in school I used to walk down to the shops with Colin every day and hold his hand and I still do that,” said the young man.

Although Conor is a member of  the Irish Taekwondo team and hopes to compete in the next Olympics, he is happy to look after his brother and “would do anything” for his family.

“My coach said to me: ‘Look Conor you’ll have to do 101 competitions in your life but you’ve only one mother’. He’s right. I’d give up my life for my family,” he said.

Every day Conor has to bring Colin on the bus so he can attend St Michael’s House day care centre in Ballymun. According to Conor looking after his younger brother is a “daily battle”.

“We get up at seven and get the bus at half but sometimes Colin decides he doesn’t want to go on the bus. Two months ago I couldn’t cook. Now I can cook for the both of us. Sometimes he wakes up in the middle of the night and picks his nose to make it bleed and I’ve to stop the bleed and then we’re up at seven again to do it all over again,” said Conor.

After his mother’s diagnosis, Conor and a group of seven friends set up the charity Care4Colin in order to raise funds so Colin can get the care he needs. They are holding an event tomorrow night, Friday, July 13 in the Goose Tavern in Drumcondra to launch their race night, which is happening in August to raise funds for Colin.

“I’m overwhelmed by the support and it looks like hundreds of people are going to come along. John Giles and other Dublin footballers are supporting us too,” said Conor.

Conor praised his mother for her “unbreakable mentality” and he hopes that the work that Care4Colin will do will allow her to take a step back.

“What mam has done over the last 20 years is amazing. She’s dedicated her life to us and now I’m going to give back something back,” he said.

Although Ann is uncertain as to what to the future will hold, her goal at the moment is for her family to be happy and healthy.

“You have to take every day as it comes but all I want is to have my little family together and for Colin to have a carer he’s comfortable with,” said Ann.

Care4Colin Fundraising launch night is on Friday, July 14 at 8:30pm.

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