Thursday 22 February 2018

'My son almost died because I couldn’t find a parking space' - Mum slams new hospital plan

Sarah Gibson and son Martin
Sarah Gibson and son Martin
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

A mum has told how her son almost missed his life-saving operation while she waited for a car parking space at Crumlin’s Children Hospital.

Sarah Gibson, from Co Wicklow, said six-year-old Martin almost ran out of oxygen before his life-saving operation last September.

The Connolly for Kids group outside the Dáil
The Connolly for Kids group outside the Dáil

“We were stuck in a queue for parking. He began to run out of oxygen in the car and there was nothing I could do. If he hadn't made it to that life-saving surgery he could have died. There wasn't even a disability space that we could have used.”

She condemned plans for the new national children’s hospital to be located at St. James’ saying it’s “a risk to my son’s life and the lives of other kids”.

“I can’t believe the Government are going to get away with this. It’s beyond belief. They’re not listening to parents about how this will affect the most vulnerable children in the country.”

Sarah and her family are from Wicklow and to get their sick child to hospital they have to go on the N11, through the city centre traffic and then battle with a parking space.

“The Government say there will be 1.5 parking spaces per bed but that means that myself and my husband can’t both visit our child if he’s coming from work and the parking spaces aren’t reserved per bed, it is first come first served,” she said.

Martin is tube fed, takes up to 40 medications a day, has an oxygen tank, a suction machine to clear his airways, lung disease, has no movement in his legs and can’t communicate his pain.

“Martin is fighting every day for his life. Doctors said he would only live a few weeks and he just turned six at the weekend. He’s our little miracle. His prognosis isn’t good but he’s always fighting.

“It makes me so sad to look at him and see that he’s always fighting, that we’re always fighting for him.”

Sarah Gibson with husband Marty and son Martin
Sarah Gibson with husband Marty and son Martin

Martin was born with a head injury in Holles Street Maternity Hospital and his mum Sarah had to face the heart-wrenching decision of sending her “tiny, vulnerable, little baby” in an ambulance by himself as he was whizzed off across the city to Crumlin Children’s Hospital.

“I couldn’t go in the ambulance with him because a doctor had to be there with him. I had to face the decision of saying goodbye to him in case he didn’t make the journey and go to Crumlin in the hope that I could meet and welcome him there. I couldn’t be there with him holding the hand of my vulnerable little baby in case he slipped away.”

She said that it’s more important to have a children’s hospital immediately co-located with a maternity hospital instead of an adult’s hospital as proposed at St. James’.

“When children are 18 they can face the journey to another hospital, vulnerable little babies can’t. Lives will be lost.

“I have one of the sickest children in the country. Sadly my child won’t make it to 18. Many of the children in the Children’s Hospital won’t so what’s the point in having it located beside an adults’ hospital?

“It’s not rocket science. The Connolly site is cheaper, has more space and has the potential for co-locating with a maternity hospital.

“The Government have spent a frivolous amount of money trying to make St James’ work. The site even flooded recently and it’ll take €60 million to fix before they even begin.  I’m on a carer’s allowance, it’s not even minimum wage so to see them waste this much money is hard.”

Sarah and her son were one of the families involved in the “Connolly for Kids” petition which urged the Taoiseach to reconsider Connolly for the new National Children’s hospital.

“We held a press conference and had over 60,000 signatures on the petition but nobody from the Taoiseach’s office even showed up. It’s a massive slap to parents of sick children. It says “we don’t care what you think”. We need to be listened to. Our kids are the vulnerable ones and we’re their voice. We’re the voice of the future children who will have to face the devastating consequences of this.

“We’re the ones who sit at their bedsides, sit with them during theatre operations, and give them 24hr care.”

She said public transport is not an option for sick children. 

“You’d starve if it meant you’d get your child there safely in a taxi.”

Martin spent the first three years of his life in hospital and Sarah dreads even thinking about what she’d do if she had to get him to hospital in an emergency situation.

“It sends shivers up my spine thinking about it. It’s worrying thinking about getting him to hospital during a rush hour.  He’s so high risk.

“Nobody I know wants St. James’ to go ahead. We’ve spoken to our TD’s but it’s not enough. We need the Taoiseach and the Health Minister to listen to us. We want a voice.

“The sick children will have no future.”

In a statement from The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board & the Children's Hospital Group, a spokesperson said: 

"The campus at St James's Hospital was chosen as the best location for the new children's hospital as it best supports improved clinical outcomes for our sickest children and young people.

"There will be 1000 car parking spaces in the new children's hospital and 675 of those spaces will be dedicated to families. 23 Emergency drop offs spaces will also be provided."

They disputed the claim that the new children's hospital could be build 'quicker and cheaper' at Connolly Hospital.

Regarding co-locating with a maternity hospital, a spokesperson explained that the new children's hospital "has been designed in the best interests of children, young people and their families".

"It will be tri-located on a campus shared with St. James’s Hospital and, in time, with the relocated Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital," the spokesperson told

The relocation of both the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital to the campus at St James’s Hospital and the Rotunda to Connolly Hospital are both included in the National Maternity Strategy.

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