Ciara (6) finally free from pain thanks to stem-cells from her hero brother Cian (4)
Irish girl Ciara O' Farrell is free from crippling pain for the first time in years, is back home in Wexford after undergoing a pioneering stem cell transplant.
The transplant of stem cells from her four-year-old brother Cian, carried out in Newcastle Hospital, in the UK, has transformed the life of the courageous six year old who was suffering from a crippling form of juvenile arthritis.
Following the transplant, the arthritis has gone and Ciara, who will be seven in two weeks, is looking forward to returning to school later in the year when she has fully recovered.
"Ciara is good, she is well, very happy and full of beans," her mother Deborah said.
"And Cian's our little hero, he kept saying "the doctor's going to take out my solar system and give it to Ciara"," she said.
Ciara had endured four years of the agonisingly painful condition which affected every joint in her body.
While the transplant was successful, she will still have to travel to Crumlin Hospital every three weeks until next Spring for an infusion of immunoglobulin to prevent infection and will have to go back to Newcastle Hospital in three months time for a check up.
"We are still on a long, hard road, but we're on the other side of it now," said Deborah.
The hospital had anticipated that Ciara would have to remain in the UK for three months but that ended up at five months, with Ciara's brave brother Cian and her dad Conor, mainly staying in touch through Skype during the delicate early stages of her recovery and to minimise the risk of infection.
Deborah said that around Christmas time, Newcastle Hospital arranged for the family to live in a 'halfway' house, however, Ciara suffered a setback when she contracted very painful hemorrhagic cystitis and was in so much pain that neither she nor her mother got much sleep, the condition apparently caused by one the drugs she was being given.
Deborah said the family had had great support from the nursing staff at Newcastle Hospital, particularly so during the time they were at the halfway house.
"They really got behind you when you need them. They were on the ball," she said.
Deborah said she was 'overwhelmed' with the support from people in Wexford, many of whom she didn't know, as she kept a round-the-clock vigil by her daughter's bedside in an isolation unit of the hospital and since those early days the support has been unwavering.
She said pupils at Kennedy Park School in Wexford had sent over 'loads of stuff' and 18 Valentine's cards for Ciara, who "will need a couple of storage boxes when all the gifts come home".
"When we were in town today, a lady came over and gave Ciara a fiver," said Deborah, the support has been fantastic.
And that support has not just been local, with the London Wexford Association playing a major role in highlighting Ciara's story and fund raising in the UK.
"We also had great support from ICAN (Irish Children's Arthritis Network) and the ICAN families from around Ireland also,' said Deborah, 'so many people are thinking about her."
Ciara has to keep away from "crowd" for the next few months and is likely to return to school in September following some physiotherapy to strengthen her legs.
"She's in great form now and in remarkable health considering what she's been through."
Asked how she was feeling following the stressful months away from home, Deborah replied simply: "Oh sure you keep going."