Thursday 18 January 2018

Brendan Cummins: Being told of Sarah's possible condition... I worried she was going to die

Pictured with 10-month old Martin Glesson, from Gortnahoe, in Crumlin after the 2010 All-Ireland success
Pictured with 10-month old Martin Glesson, from Gortnahoe, in Crumlin after the 2010 All-Ireland success

Brendan Cummins

Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin is a special place. It's a place full of inspiration and hope, but sadness and despair lurk there too.

Some kids leave there and never look back. Some arrive there and never leave.

I'd visited the hospital on the Monday morning after we won the All-Ireland final in 2010.

Little did I know that on my next visit to this place, I would be rushing through the entrance doors behind a mobile incubator housing my daughter Sarah.

She was born in Clonmel on October 30, 2012. Our bundle of joy was here.

Majella Kennedy works in theatre at South Tipperary General Hospital and was present for the birth. It's an unusual thing, I guess, that a child's godmother is there for the event but this was one of those special days.

Sarah couldn't see me yet, of course, but looking into her eyes was a magnificent feeling.

Relief was the overriding emotion, and initial checks suggested that everything was fine. But one of the nurses, a lady named Carmel Byrne, was concerned, as Sarah was panting heavily.

'Give me a minute,' Carmel said. She arrived back to the room with another nurse.

'We're going to take her down to ICU for monitoring,' Carmel told us. 'Sometimes this can happen with newborn babies as they get used to air.'

Pam and I were worried now. The nurses attempted to assure us that everything was OK, but inside, we suspected differently.

I went down to see Sarah about half an hour later. They had a drip in her arm, a tube in her nose that was feeding her, what looked like a funnel under her mouth supplying oxygen, and she was linked to a heart monitor. I could see that she was still panting heavily.

Looking at my daughter, dressed in her little vest dotted with stickers of giraffes and lions, I felt so helpless. Pam was just two doors away, not realising the full extent of what was happening.

I couldn't let her see this.

'It's only a precaution,' I was told. 'We've called the doctor to have a look. There's no problem at all, Brendan. She's fine.'

Beep, beep, beep went the monitor. No problem. OK. Let's not panic.

I had to keep the brave face for Pam but it was difficult to remain composed in the circumstances.

'Where's Sarah?' 'Well, she's below there now and the doctor's coming down to her-'

'What do you mean?'

'Look, I've seen her, she's fine.' I had asked the nurse to remove the oxygen pump for a moment to take a quick picture.

'Look, there she is, Pam. She's fine. You need to get some rest.'

A specialist examined Sarah the next day. He suspected that she had a hole in her heart but he wasn't quite sure. If Sarah hadn't improved by that evening or the following morning, she would be sent to Crumlin for further tests. He was a lovely man and spoke in gentle tones but being told of Sarah's possible condition was desperate news to process. In my head, I worried if she was going to die.

'Why are we waiting? Can we not go now and check it out?'

Our worst fears were eventually confirmed when we were informed that, yes, Sarah would be on her way to Crumlin.

'I'm sorry,' we were told, 'we have to send her there for tests. We think it might be nothing but we have to be sure. She'll be scanned straight away and if everything is OK, she'll be back here in no time.'

By now, Sarah was in the world two days and Pam had hardly seen her.

I don't know how she managed it, but Pam pulled herself out of bed to make her way down to see Sarah in the incubator. Our daughter was placed gingerly in her mother's arms and the pictures I took of those moments are among the most precious I possess. I think of them every time that I look at her now.

Liam Sheedy had been right, like he almost always was. At one of our team meetings, we'd been asked to talk about our biggest fears.

Liam's was that anything should ever happen to his family.

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