herald

Tuesday 23 October 2018

'€15m damages might one day fund a cure for our little Eoin', say parents

Anthony and Jean McCallig with their sons Daniel (2), left and Eoin (5) right. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Anthony and Jean McCallig with their sons Daniel (2), left and Eoin (5) right. Photo: Caroline Quinn

The family of a five-year-old boy with cerebral palsy who received a €15m court settlement hopes that one day the money might help pay for a "cure".

Eoin McCallig, who was born in the Coombe Hospital on November 24, 2012, was awarded the settlement at the High Court in Dublin in November.

The court heard that there had been "error upon error", including a failure to act on instructions to move Eoin's mother, Jean (41), to a delivery room earlier and to ensure a continuous monitoring of the foetal heartbeat.

The McCalligs, from Perrystown, Dublin, plan to spend minimal instalments of the settlement for Eoin's care each year of his life.

But in the future they also hope the money will put him in a position to benefit from any medical intervention.

Eoin's father Anthony (39) said: "If there's any medical advances coming up we'll be able to afford it now.

"A cure is the ultimate hope. There have been major advances for conditions like multiple sclerosis, so we hope the same will happen for cerebral palsy."

Blood

Mr and Mrs McCallig revealed that they froze the umbilical cord blood of their second son, Daniel (2), in the hope it could one day be used to help Eoin.

A US study is offering new hope to families in the treatment of cerebral palsy.

The study could one day herald a new treatment for the condition by using blood stem cells collected at birth.

The McCallig family enjoying Christmas 2016: From left Eoin with his father, Anthony and Jean with Daniel.
The McCallig family enjoying Christmas 2016: From left Eoin with his father, Anthony and Jean with Daniel.

Anthony said "unfortunately" the family didn't know to collect Eoin's umbilical cord blood but they hoped Daniel's blood could one day help his older brother.

"We've stored the blood for 10 years and we're very hopeful one day it could help Eoin," he added.

"We know developments are being made in China but we would want to wait for progress here or in the UK, to see if there's hope.

"Early intervention is crucial, so something might work and hopefully we are financially in a place to be at the forefront."

In the American study, researchers treated children with the blood and the youngsters who received a higher dosage showed marked improvement in mobility over children receiving low doses or placebos.

The researchers say the progress they have made isn't a cure as of yet but it is a step in the right direction.

In Singapore around 10 children with cerebral palsy have been treated with their own umbilical cord blood.

Medics said there were noticeable improvements in muscle control, co-ordination and strength within weeks.

"Something might work and God knows for the children who receive settlements after too long, it might be too late for them to be part of any breakthrough," said Anthony.

In Singapore, the treatment, still in the pilot stage, is expensive, costing more than €6,000 for two transfusions.

The McCalligs said the settlement would enable them to pay for any private care that Eoin might need.

"We'll be able to pay for private care, a powered wheelchair which Eoin will be able to control with his eyes and head," said Anthony.

"Because of his gross motor function, Eoin can't control much with his arms or legs. We want him to have some kind of independence.

"This money has provided a huge relief to us because we won't worry about Eoin ending up in institutional care one day when we die and he'll be able to have all the best opportunities."

At home, Eoin's eyes light up when his mother plays Mr Potato Head with him and he laughs infectiously, encouraging her to place the eyes where the mouth should go.

"He has a great sense of humour," said former bank worker Jean.

"He loves it when you get things wrong, so you wonder what funny things he'd come out with but he just can't tell us.

"When I had Daniel, I felt like a first-time mum again and there was a lot of grief round both births because of all the memories I was making with Daniel, the first time holding him - things I'd not been able to do with Eoin.

Guilty

"I found myself very torn between trying to enjoy Daniel and not thinking too much about what happened with Eoin or feeling guilty.

"There's a light in Eoin's eyes. I can feel him trying to communicate with me and as time goes on that gets stronger and stronger."

Watching her husband play intently with the two boys - Anthony whirring Eoin through the air as he smiles delightedly and Daniel tearing through the house on his own little adventure - it's clear the trauma is only starting to clear in the McCallig household.

"I'm tired after the court case but I'm relieved," Jean said.

She has previously told how she had twice been diagnosed with breast cancer and finally had a mastectomy in April while dealing with the stress of the legal action.

"I didn't realise how much of a weight would be lifted once it was all done and dusted," she said. "It's hung over us for a long time."

She said the family were already drawing up wish lists for Eoin that they could only "dream of" previously.

"We'd like to get a hydrotherapy pool, hoisting, ramps, therapies, to make life easier," said Jean.

Eoin "loves to swim", Anthony added.

"It makes him feel independent to be in the water," he said.

"I take him to the local pool and he loves the social element of it too, so we do hope when we get a pool he'll have friends coming round to use it."

Anthony said that despite his son's disabilities he loved to interact with other children and had become a bit of a "celebrity" at his school, Niall Mor National School in Killybegs, Co Donegal.

The pupils made Eoin a touching birthday card in the days after he won the settlement.

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