Desperate dad seeks help to fund Megan's US autism therapy
An Irish couple have been left facing medical bills of thousands of euro and surviving on their savings after giving up their jobs and emigrating to California to seek treatment for their sick toddler.
Michael and Gabriela Hennigan, from Clonsilla, Dublin, travelled to San Diego earlier this month to seek treatment for their youngest daughter, two-year-old Megan, who has autism.
She was diagnosed in April, and needs constant comprehensive treatment for a variety of symptoms.
"Megan, who is non-verbal, is severely impaired in all areas and is in need of immediate intensive intervention," her dad told the Herald.
"We're trying to help our daughter and afford her the necessary treatment she needs, but it's proving very expensive.
"We're pleading for people to donate in any way they can to give Megan a better chance of living a normal life. We hope people can contribute towards her fund."
The estimated cost of the treatment is $61,000 (€54,360), which could rise and does not include the cost of living in California.
The family are in the US on a B-1 and B-2 visitor visa which allows them to stay until next August.
"The medical treatment is very expensive and the cost of living is also dear - we're paying $2,000 (€1,780) a month for a two-bedroom apartment," said Michael.
Due to their outgoings, the couple were forced to separate from their other daughter, who is living thousands of kilometres away.
"Our daughter, 10-year-old Nicole, is now living in Poland with her grandparents," said Michael.
"Its a painful experience. We won't be able to see our precious little girl for a minimum of one year, maybe longer."
Michael and Gabriela were also forced to quit their jobs in Ireland in order to travel to the US. Michael was unable to get a similar position in San Diego.
"I applied for a transfer from Intel Ireland to work in one of their US plants, but I didn't get it," he said.
"I'm trying to get a work permit over here but it's proving difficulty, so we're living off the little savings we had coming over.
"We searched for the best treatment and found the most successful evidence-based therapy called ESDM (Early Start Denver Model) available in California, but unfortunately the same treatment is not available in Ireland at the moment."
The Denver Model uses electroencephalography (EEG), a technique in which electrodes are placed on the scalp to measure electrical activity in the brain.
Megan's latest EEG and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans have confirmed that she also needs comprehensive neurological, mitochondrial and metabolic treatment.
Mitochondrial symptoms usually involve muscle contractions that are weak or spontaneous.
However, the treatment is not covered by the Hennigans' insurance, leaving them to pay for the various complicated therapies out of their own pockets.
Due to her condition, Megan is also on a GFCFSF (Gluten Free, Casein Free, Soy Free) diet, with the particular foods adding to the family's costs.
"We're appealing for people to help our daughter in any way they can," said Michael.
"As parents who are struggling, we are just trying to give Megan the best chance at a normal life."
So far €350 has been raised for the family's fund in the last three days, with the family appealing for people to donate to the projected €70,000 cost for Megan's treatment and living in the US.