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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Michelle Cullen

Irish family given devastating diagnosis after 'smiling' son, 2, 'stopped walking' and was rushed to hospital

An Irish family have been left devastated after their two-year-old son was given a heart-wrenching diagnosis just days after he "stopped walking".

Éanna Starken, from Gort, Co Galway, was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma, a rare but aggressive child cancer, in June of this year.

Despite having visited several doctors when he became "a little bit quieter and not smiling his usual smile", Éanna's parents, Simon and Eimear, were told that doctors "couldn't find anything".

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But sadly, just weeks later, the family were given the unbearable news that their baby boy had a large tumour on his kidney and liver, and tests and scans showed that it was presenting in the bones as well as his bone marrow, along with smaller tumours in his lungs, chest and abdomen.

Speaking to the Irish Mirror, Éanna's grandad Gerry Starken said: "Éanna was born on the 14th February 2021. He was our first grandson and, as I say, a very healthy young baby, was thriving until maybe May, June this year when we noticed that he was getting a little bit quieter and not smiling his usual smile.

Éanna Starken with parents Simon and Eimear (Submitted)

"Eventually, we had visited a number of doctors just to see what they could find out, and they couldn't actually find anything, and then one Friday evening, he just stopped walking, and it was decided then and there between myself and Simon and Eimear and his other granny that he needed to go to A&E just to check it out.

"He went in on Monday morning, the 31st of May, which was Simon's birthday, and at 3 O'clock, they were told that he had a growth, a cancer growth, between his kidney and his liver and further tests.

"Then he went to Crumlin the following day by ambulance with Simon following behind, and Eimear was minding him, and it's grown from then that we found out that it was neuroblastoma which is stage four, and it was the beginning of a long journey."

Gerry said the news has had a huge impact on their lives as mum Eimear was forced to give up her job as a national school teacher to care for Éanna full time.

He said: "It has just taken our life over. It has affected the whole family, but Eimear and Simon are just full-time taking care of him.

"Eimear had to give up her job as a national school teacher in Abbeyknockmoy to take care of him.

Éanna Starken (Submitted)

"Every day you wake up - and they actually live in the same property as ourselves just beside us - and we have to have a look to see if he's still there or if something has happened during the night or if his temperature has spiked.

"These all lead to him having to go into Galway and get blood samples taken, so it's nearly a daily occurrence either that or a spike in temperature means that he has to go in because the poor man he's had so much chemotherapy that his immune system is probably shot at the moment."

Éanna has just come home after five days of chemo two weeks ago and was back in Dublin on Thursday to have a full body scan which will determine the next step in his treatment.

But despite this, Gerry says the toddler "keeps on smiling".

He said: "As a baby himself, he doesn't realise. It's just natural for him to go into hospital and have nurses prodding him and poking him, and you know he comes out every time with a smile. He's brilliant. He's brilliant himself like, but he just doesn't realise or understand that there should be a better life for him."

Éanna Starken (Submitted)

On top of coming to terms with their new reality, the family have also faced enormous bills from paying for accommodation while Éanna receives his treatment in Crumlin.

Gerry said: "He would have to go to Crumlin for maybe a week at a time and they are kind of done on an outpatient basis, that they go into hospital, get the treatment and have to get their own accommodation, which could cost them up to €1,200 for five days, and even the trips up and down to Dublin in and out to Galway."

To help support the family, friends of Simon and Eimear have decided to hold a fundraiser, a pub quiz, which will be held on December 2 in Athenry and have also set up an idonate page for those who can't make it.

Gerry said they have been overwhelmed by the response so far.

Éanna Starken (Submitted)

He said: "We put it out on Facebook, we put it out on Instagram just in the hope that we'd get 20, 25 tables to come and support it, but the response has been so huge. People ringing, 'look, we won't make it. Can we donate?'

"It was just something we kept putting off as a family, a Gofundme or an idonate because it's just one of those reasons we thought we were managing."

If you would like to donate to Éanna's idonate, click here.


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