Sunday 25 March 2018

Beautiful Ava (1) at centre of Temple Street call for shoppers to buy 'Reindeer Food' this weekend

Ava McDonnell.
Ava McDonnell.
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

When Ava McDonnell was born last year, she was a much-longed-for treasure. It took 10 years for married couple Sinéad and George to conceived.

Sinéad and George enjoyed all the excitement that the impending arrival of a first baby brings, until they were delivered a devastating blow at the 23-week scan.

Sinéad and George were told that their growing baby had hydrocephalus, a condition that happens when cerebrospinal fluid cannot drain from the brain.

“The first 23 weeks were amazing, and then it was like a thunder bolt. It was tough because we were thinking “it’s great, we’re pregnant,” and then the news we got,” Sinéad said.

“In a way we had time to build up to what we were going to expect. We were told she might be peg fed, she might be incubated, and then it turned out to be better than what she expected.”

A paediatrician and neonatologist were waiting to take Ava away when she was born. She was taken by ambulance to Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin, the following day, August 14, while Sinéad had to stay in Cork University Hospital to recover from her caesarean section.

“I literally got to see her at 8.14am when she was born, then at 11am in the neonatal unit, and then at 10 that night. She was taken to Temple Street the next morning and I got to see her for a few minutes before she went up. I was very worried. “

A week after she was born, Ava underwent surgery where a shunt was inserted into her brain.

Two weeks later, Sinead spotted fluid seeping from her wound, and she was once again rushed to hospital. Over the next few months, Ava was taken back and forth to Temple Street Hospital for more shunts to drain more fluid from her brain.

During all this time of worry, Sinéad and George were supported by the staff of Temple Street.

“The nurses were amazing. They were telling us sometimes to go to the cinema for an hour or two and to go for a meal if we needed an hour or two, and they’d tell us that they’d look after her. They’d recommend places for us to go. They were just outstanding.”

“They can’t say the prognosis until she starts reaching developmental milestones, between two and three years of age. It’s hard because you think she looks like any other baby – it’s [hydrocephalus] on the inside, not on the outside.”

“We’re always going to be linked to Temple Street forever when it comes to the hydrocephalus. We’re grateful to them for all their support.”

Ava, now 15 months, is pictured above helping out at Temple Street Hospital where she's promoting a fundraiser this weekend. Her parents are encouraging shoppers to support Temple Street’s Magical Reindeer Food Fundraiser tomorrow and Sunday at all Tesco stores. Proceeds will help fund an amino acid analyser that tests for signs of rare genetic disorders.

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