The Kirrane family, Castlebar, in 2023 - Eddie and Caitlín with their children Eddie Óg, Nóinín, Ceoilín and Seoidín. PHOTO: ALISON LAREDO

How Mayo family got through the most traumatic days of their lives

by Caitlín Kirrane

It was a small little accident that turned into one of the most traumatic days of our lives.

Our youngest daughter Seoidín fell off the couch and banged the back of her head on the hard wooden floor.

Not the worst fall or bump she’s ever had, but still I jumped up and ran to pick her up, waiting for the cry.

If you’ve ever met a toddler you know they fall often, so this was just another little bump as far as I was concerned.

I scooped her up quickly into my arms and she let a little cry out before her whole demeanour changed.

My mum and I exchanged a brief look of confusion before Seoidín threw herself back in my arms, her eyes rolling back in her head.

She wasn’t breathing. The next few minutes were pandemonium. We screamed for my dad, my mum started administering first aid as Seoidín lay motionless on the couch and I called for the ambulance.

The seconds ticked by, I was crying and kept saying to the operator “this is taking too long” as I waited to be connected to the ambulance.

“Get her in the car, we’ll take her ourselves!” I frantically shouted as I just kept thinking, she’s not breathing, she needs help now, we can’t wait.

My mum rushed into the back seat of my dad’s car and my dad threw his keys at me. My three older children were at home, he would have to stay with them and I would have to drive.

“No, no, no, no, no, no, no…” I chanted as I drove quickly into the hospital. I beeped the horn incessantly as I overtook a long line of cars waiting at the red light.

I went on the wrong side of the road to go around the line of cars waiting at the roundabout. They’ll stop, they’ll move out of the way if I just keep beeping, I thought, just desperate to get her there, my mum saying “Seoidín! Seoidín! Seoidín!” in the back seat in between breathing into her mouth.

I pulled up outside the hospital and ran around to the back door, taking Seoidín from my mum’s arms, still running with her limp body pressed against me. I burst through the Emergency Department doors screaming “Help! She’s not breathing!”

The staff behind the desk stood up quickly and wasted no time pointing to their left and said: “That door!” I rushed through and was immediately met by doctors and nurses who took her from me.

“She’s seizing,” one of them said and I quickly told them what happened.

Someone took my arm and led me through the emergency department to a room in the back where they had taken Seoidín.

Immediately the room was filled with everyone who needed to be there, emergency room staff and a team from paediatrics. I don’t know how everyone got there so quickly.

One of the nurses took my hand and reassured me “She’s ok, her vitals are all good, she’s breathing”, and I just kept nodding, crying and pleading. My mum followed me in, in floods of tears.

When they told me they were going to intubate her I broke down. They were giving her anti-seizure medication and sedating her so they could stop the seizures and get her up for a CT scan to see if there was damage in her brain.

A kind stranger had parked my dad’s car and brought my phone in from the car and I was able to phone my husband, but I couldn’t get the words out. One of the nurses took my phone and explained what was happening.

My dad had already spoken to him so he was already on his way.

Adrenalin must have been keeping me going up to that point and then I went into shock.

My hands, legs and lips were all pins and needles and I felt as though I was going to throw up or pass out.

One of the nurses did breathing exercises with me while another kept putting cold flannels on my forehead.

Within minutes they took Seoidín up for her scan. I felt as though I was having an out of body experience.

There were no nappies for her so one of the orderlies ran down to the shop to buy her some, staff kept handing us water and tissues and telling us everything that was happening and everything that was about to happen.

When my husband arrived someone went straight out to bring him in.

The doctors told us that her scan looked clear but they would be transferring her to Temple Street Hospital as that is where all the neurology specialists were.

Two paediatric nurses and an anaesthesiologist would be accompanying her along with the paramedics in the ambulance from Mayo to Dublin, so my husband and I would have to follow separately.

The drive up to Dublin felt long and all sorts of terrible thoughts kept entering my head. Every time they did I repeated my mantra “She’s going to be OK”, bargaining with the universe as we drove.

The following day they took her off sedation and then the ventilator, they said they needed to see if she would respond appropriately to us.

As soon as the medication started to wear off she said in a small, groggy, raspy voice “Mummy, Daddy, my Dodo?”, and the relief flooded our bodies as we broke into tears.

Seoidín spent three days in Temple Street Children’s Hospital and will be on medication for a while but she is home safely now and playing with her siblings.

We often hear bad news stories so I wanted to share this. I cannot thank the staff at Mayo University Hospital (MUH) enough. Every single one of them were amazing in what was a very stressful and traumatic situation.

At least three different staff members from MUH called Temple Street and me repeatedly to check on Seoidín in the days that followed the incident.

They saved our baby girl and the level of care for not only her, but for us, was above and beyond. We are so lucky and thankful to have this hospital and the amazing staff in it right on our doorstep.

Myself and my family will never forget what they did for us that day.

One of the doctors messaged me and let me know the three consultants that were taking care of her in the emergency room were all women, and mothers themselves, and they were absolutely amazing.