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Tears for Saoirse on brave Liam's big day

THE two-year-old boy played happily with his cousins on a bouncy castle, oblivious to the fact that he was the centre of attention.

But all eyes were on little Liam Heffernan, whose recovery from brain surgery just a month ago has amazed doctors.

Liam, who suffers from Battens Disease, a fatal neurodegenerative illness, underwent the pioneering surgery in New York in May in an effort to reverse some of its effects. So far, the results have been positive.

The little boy from Castledrum, Keel, Co Kerry, enjoyed the festivities organised for World Battens Day at the Kerry Way, near Killarney, with hundreds of supporters on Saturday.

But for his parents Tony and Mary, the day had an especially poignant edge.

June 4 was also their daughter Saoirse's birthday, and had she lived she would have turned six last weekend.

Saoirse, pictured left, passed away on January 18, after losing her own battle with Battens Disease.

"It was so sad getting up today when there were no candles, no birthday cake and no Saoirse," Mary told the Irish Independent.

Just a couple of years ago, Tony and Mary Heffernan had never heard of Battens Disease and had no idea how it would devastate their lives.

Now, through the charity they have founded -- Bee for Battens: The Saoirse Foundation -- many more people know the significance of World Battens Day.

Irish Independent