Portlaoise family appeal for help to visit sick baby

Parents Shane and Theresa Mulhall with Sam.
The parents of baby Sam Mulhall who has been in Crumlin hospital since birth last November, are appealing for help with mounting travel costs.

The parents of baby Sam Mulhall who has been in Crumlin hospital since birth last November, are appealing for help with mounting travel costs.

Theresa and Shane Mulhall from Esker Hills, Portlaoise have been taking it in turns to stay overnight with baby Sam, juggling Shane’s job in Dublin, with caring at home for Sam’s big brother Eli aged 13 months.

Sam was born prematurely at 36 weeks after being diagnosed at 31 weeks with a complete blockage of his bowel.

When he was just 8 hours old, he underwent emergency surgery to remove three quarters of his damaged bowel and temporarily separate the large and small intestine.

For the next eight weeks he was fed by a chest line directly into his bloodstream, with formula gradually introduced by mouth, starting with one ml.

Sam’s fecal matter had to be carefully removed from his large intestine and put into his small intestine to encourage digestion, with the aim of reconnecting both in time.

He recovered so rapidly that last Thursday he had his surgery to reconnect his bowel, and is recovering well.

“He is doing quite well, but he is in an awful lot of pain,” reported Theresa last Friday.

It will be some time before they will know if the operation is successful, and Sam recovers enough to come home.

“We have no idea how long he will be in hospital, it could be six months, or a year. I am hoping by Christmas or maybe his first birthday,” she said.

Sam is a hit with the nurses she says.

“Every morning I go in they have already washed his hair before I can get a chance, they are all fighting over him,” she laughed.

In a touching blog on fundraising site Gofundme.ie, Theresa described how their first Christmas as a family of four was spent apart.

Each parent took turns to stay with each child in Dublin and Portlaoise, finding just a few hours all together in hospital on New Year’s day.

“That was one of the most difficult few days as a family so far, being apart, literally one of us coming home from the hospital, handing over the car keys, and the other person heading straight up in their place. We didn’t even have the heart to put up a tree,” said Theresa, who thanked her family, the Breens and Nolan’s from Portlaoise, for their support, as well as Shane’s family in Stradbally.

It was only after the first month of driving up and down that they realised they had spent almost €700 on petrol and parking.

“This month, I am travelling by train, tram and walking, which costs €410 for the month. It is crippling but completely necessary for me to see Sam every day, help with his care, be there for doctors’ rounds, establish and maintain a bond, all while still needing to return home in the evenings to take care of Eli,” says Theresa.

It will be even more difficult in April, when bank official Theresa’s maternity benefit runs out, as she obviously cannot return to work while Sam is in hospital.

“We tried staying in the Ronald Mcdonald house but that was as expensive as travelling,” said Theresa.

Now that Shane, also a bank official, is back working, there is no option for Theresa but to leave Eli with relatives while she travels to Crumlin.

“I make my way up 6 mornings a week, Sunday to Friday, returning home late in the evening to spend an hour with Eli before bed. On Fridays I try to bring Eli so that he can get to know his brother. Those are difficult days at the hospital, especially with Eli crawling and trying his best to stand and walk,” Theresa says.

Shane stays overnight with Sam 2-3 nights a week after work, and also on Saturday.

Theresa is keeping her blog updated with photos, videos and updates on Sam’s progress.

Already supporters have given nearly €300 to help the young family.

“Obviously we realise the financial situation that all families are faced with, but any help we can get to lessen the financial cost of getting to Sam every day would be a godsend,” she said.

The gofundme account amount of €5,000 reflects 12 months travel costs.

“I hope we won’t need that much, and any left over will be given to the Ronald McDonald house,” she said, thanking her family and friends for all the prayers and well wishes.

See www.gofundme.com/679r2s