Friday 23 February 2018

The Great Temple Street Bake Off

It's time to get baking to raise much-needed funds for the iconic children's hospital

Dublin hurler Peter Kelly holds baby Ella during a visit to Temple Strret as Ella's dad Paul Coffey holds the Bob O'Keeffe Cup
Dublin hurler Peter Kelly holds baby Ella during a visit to Temple Strret as Ella's dad Paul Coffey holds the Bob O'Keeffe Cup
Paul and Jen Clifford with Harry and baby Reuben

Ailin Quinlan

Food writer and chef Donal Skehan is leading the Great Irish Bake and is calling on volunteers to don their aprons and raise money to purchase incubators for Temple Street Children's Hospital.

One family that are looking forward to getting involved are Paul and Jen Clifford, the parents of Reuben Clifford, who suddenly stopped breathing when he was just four days old.

Within days of his arrival home from hospital last August, the newborn was back under medical care after his Jen called the emergency services and Paul started CPR.

Within five minutes local fire brigade personnel arrived at the family home in Swords and took over as Reuben's anxious older brother Harry (3) looked on.

Reuben was quickly transferred to the care of Temple Street Children's Hospital, where he was initially placed in an incubator in the Intensive Care Unit. He remained in hospital for 16 weeks, until he was discharged just in time for Christmas.

Reuben, it emerged, has an inability to coordinate his breathing with his swallowing, so that when he was taking his bottle, some of the feed was going into his lungs.

As a result of this Reuben now has to be fed by a special tube, which bypasses his stomach and feeds him directly into his small bowel. Due to the high risk of choking, the the seven-month old is monitored and on oxygen 24-hours a day.

"I would describe Temple Street as like a second home to us," recalls Paul. "We were there every day for four months. He was virtually getting one-on-one care – it was the fact that he was so prone to choking that they had to monitor him closely – and the staff were absolutely tremendous. Reuben was back in hospital again recently after his lung collapsed. He has to have 24/7 nursing care," explains Paul.

"We will definitely be helping out with the fundraising effort – we're very grateful for the continuing care provided by the staff at Temple Street to Reuben and we will certainly participate in the appeal."

Another family looking forward to donning the aprons are the Coffey-Keeleys. "We'll be baking some buns and some apple tarts," says dad Paul, a tyre-fitter based in Clonmel.

"We usually enjoy doing a small bit of baking at home, but this will be a big family occasion. We'll get Ella's sister and brother, Chloe and Anthony, to help out as well and between us we will help to raise the money for Temple Street." The reason?

Paul and his wife Jennifer's beautiful little baby daughter Ella spent the first months of her young life in the hospital – three weeks of which she spent in a state-of-the-art incubator – after being rushed there from Tipperary General Hospital when she was just 15 hours old.

Born four weeks prematurely, on July 7, Ella was five-and-a-half months of age when her doctors finally deemed her well enough to make her very first trip home last December.

Ella arrived just in time for Christmas – and what a wonderful present that was for her loving family.

"Without a doubt Ella would not have made it without the incubators and without the medical expertise of the surgeon and the other medical staff who attended her," recalls Paul. "Without the incubators which people all over the country are fundraising to buy, we would have been lost."

Shortly after birth the little girl needed an emergency operation for a perforated bowel, and had about 20pc of it removed.

Following a lengthy and complex operation, she spent two-and-a-half days on a ventilator in the intensive care unit – and nearly six months in hospital.

"She spent the first few months of her life on a feed through her nose and she was very frail. The five months after Ella was born were very difficult. We were a long way away from home and we put our lives with the other children on hold for 10 weeks after the birth.

"It was a long and difficult few months for all of us. It was a real drain on us emotionally, physically and financially and now we wonder how we got through it at all," recalls Paul, who along with Jennifer regularly availed of the special Parents Accommodation at the hospital.

But that's all in the past now. "Although Ella's still on a lot of medication, she's now thriving," says a grateful Paul.

Skehan is hoping for lots of participants – the well-known chef and author is urging anyone who can tell a bun tin from a food-mixer to join in and help raise funds.

The target is to buy three €50,000 incubators for vulnerable newborns at Temple Street Children's University Hospital.

Since it began in 2008, The Great Irish Bake has raised over €337,000.

Skehan (27) said: "I've been doing the Great Irish Bake for a few years now.

"The amount the campaign has already collected sounds like a lot of money, but when you see how much these incubators actually cost – €50,000 – it really puts it in perspective. When you go into the hospital you can really see where the money goes, and the bake-off is a huge opportunity to help.

"It's a great campaign – it has raised awareness about Temple Street and has also brought in funding."

Remember, he says, all the money that is raised through these bake sales goes "straight back" to Temple Street which cares for more than 145,000 children every year.

More than 45,000 of these children attend the Emergency Department every year making the hospital one of the busiest in Europe with a staff of 85 Consultants and over 950 other full-time and part-time nursing, paramedical and other staff.

Skehan is more than happy to take time out of his busy schedule to help with the bake – and it's a pretty busy schedule. He's presenting the popular Saturday morning cookery show 'Mitt Kok' on Swedish TV, is starting work on a new cookery series for RTE and is launching a new range of home-made pies for the supermarket sector.

But the young chef is delighted to take time out to call on baking enthusiasts nationwide to raise lots of dough for Temple Street by baking some mouth-watering goodies and selling them at a cake sale at home, in school or in work.

"I'm very proud to be a supporter of the hospital and an Ambassador for The Great Irish Bake again this year. These urgently-needed incubators will help so many seriously ill babies in Temple Street. Please show your support and get baking!"

The Great Irish Bake is one of Temple Street's most "enjoyable" fundraisers, says Denise Fitzgerald, chief executive officer of fundraising at the hospital.

"It's a brilliant excuse to bake some lovely treats and invite family and friends over."

The 6th annual Great Irish Bake begins on April 4. Register online today at to receive your kit or call 01-878 4344 for more info.

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