Every day, we are exposed to so much information on our phones from the media, social media posts and websites. I’ll be honest, I’ve become a bit desensitised to the numbers, and I’m sure many readers feel the same. At this point, I exhale in exasperation every time I hear the latest figures for the cost of the new children’s hospital. The most recent figure released in February stated that it was to exceed €2.24bn, an extra €500m than was previously quoted – although this is the final amount (apparently). It’s hard to believe that the original figure was €250m. It now stands to be one of the most expensive hospitals in the world. And at the risk of completely indulging in a rant, it still mystifies me that it got sign-off to be constructed right in the middle of Dublin city centre, and not somewhere on the outskirts of the capital, such as the Blanchardstown site. For many rural families, especially those with sick children, the drive to Dublin can be considerable, never mind battling rush-hour traffic in the city.

Scoliosis surgery

This drive to Dublin is one that Liam Dennehy (13), from Fossa in Co Kerry will be taking, and it should be – and needs to be – a lot sooner than the new hospital opens its doors. I’m conscious that it will be an uncomfortable journey for Liam, in fact, it is most likely going to be quite painful for him as he is one of the 327 children in Ireland waiting on scoliosis surgery. As detailed by Margaret Hawkins, Liam’s spine has a curvature of 92 degrees which is now causing so much pressure on his organs, his mother Pam says they are essentially ‘living’ in University Hospital Kerry. For context, going over 85 degrees puts a person in, ‘a very dangerous place medically,’ says Pam, and it now means he may need two surgeries to correct his spine, rather than one.

Of the 327 children waiting on surgery, more than 100 have exceeded this wait time – and there are more children on the overall waiting list now than there were seven years ago

Liam and Pam are living and breathing the scoliosis scandal that has been ongoing for years. In 2017, then Minister for Health Simon Harris promised that a child would not be waiting more than four months for surgery. However, of the 327 children waiting on surgery, more than 100 have exceeded this wait time – and there are more children on the overall waiting list now than there were seven years ago.

I started this column saying that sometimes I become desensitised to the numbers. Having read Liam’s story, I don’t think I will ever hear the numbers surrounding the scoliosis scandal again and not think of the families who are living the reality of that statistic every day.

Assistance hero

I feel it is really important that Irish Country Living reflects what is really going on in rural Ireland - we cannot shy away from the tough situations that families such as the Dennehys are facing. Equally, we should also celebrate the successes and the inspirational stories, and there is another young boy called Aaron Thornhill featured whose life has become all the better thanks to his four-legged pal called Mitch. Aaron was born with cerebral palsy and Mitch is his assistance dog who has helped him with his health, his mobility and his confidence. He tells Maria Moynihan that at one stage, he had to use a wheelchair due to inflammation around his hip but he can now walk 2km, with the assistance of Mitch.

You’ll find a theme running through this issue as we celebrate our love for pets – we have advice on hotels to stay with your furry friends, advice on pet insurance, as well as some cute accessories for your furry pals, but Mitch definitely takes the term pet to a whole other level.