When a loved one is seriously ill in hospital, the phyiscal, mental and emotional strain on the family is considerable. However, there are facilities available to make that traumatic ordeal a little more manageable. In the case of Marguerite Kiely, the availability of accommodation at An Bró Columbanus meant that she and her husband could be near their son Aaron while he was undergoing treatment at Cork University Hospital. An Bró (meaning hostel) is a home from home established by the Order of the Knights of Columbanus and maintained by a team of volunteers. The family of patients at Cork hospitals can take rest and comfort in a safe, warm and caring environment. In Aarons Legacy, Marguerite now pays homage to An Bró for the refuge and comfort it afforded her and her husband in their time of loss.
Charting the development of An Bró and highlighting the fact that this is the only hostel of its kind in Ireland, Marguerite Kiely issues a rallying call for more such centres. In doing so, she not only pays homage to An Bró Columbanus, but to the memory of Aaron.
Marguerite Kiely and her family, suffered the devestating loss of baby Aaron. Out of this dispair and because of the refuge provided by Clic House in Bristol during AaronÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s stary in hospital, came the foundation of An Bru Columbanus, Cork. A fitting legacy to Aaron. She lives in Dublin and works as a psychotherapist.
The legacy of a baby boy who lost his life to a rare form of cancer has seen the development of a vital accommodation centre for the families of patients attending Cork University Hospital (CUH).
Cork woman Marguerite Kiely lost her baby son Aaron to a rare form of liver cancer in 1993, when he was just 11 months old.
His legacy has since led to die creation of the 27-bed Bró Columbanus accommodation centre for families of patients who attend CUE Marguerite, originally from Mayfield, officially launched a book of her experiences which she wrote to help other families, called Aarons Legacy, at the Bró Columbanus centre this week.
Marguerite, who has three other children, was living in Taunton in the UK with her husband at the time Aaron was diagnosed. He was taken for treatment to Bristol Hospital for Sick Children. When Aaron was first diagnosed, Marguerite and her family were approached by a social worker to tell them accommodation was available at Click (Cancer Leukaemia in Children) House; near Bristol Hospital.
When Marguerites brother, Superintendent Charlie Barry, who was very much involved in community projects, returned to Cork after Aaron passed away, he was approached by the Knights of Columbanus who wanted to create something which would benefit the community. Remembering his time in Bristol with his nephew, Supt Barry suggested the Knights set up an accommodation centre like Click House, "Cork badly needed a facility for parents of sick children in CUR At the time, families were travelling from all over Cork. Kerry and Limerick and there was no place for them to stay. They were staying on hospital wards, sleeping on chairs and on the floor," said Marguerite.
Cork County Council donated some land at the back of the Wilton bar and Bró Columbanus was built.
This 27-bed charity-run centre provides accommodation for the relatives of hospital and hospice patients free of charge.
"In the prayer room at Bró Columbanus, there is a tribute plaque to Aaron. People kept asking who he was so Bró Columbanus approached me to see if we could put down our experiences as a family and write a book which would provide inspiration to other families."
"When we entered Click House, there was a book of extracts written by parents which really helped us. I wanted to pen the book so that parents coming into Bró house would have something to connect to and I could share my story. Its a sad book but also a book of hope," said Marguerite.
The book is available in Veritas and other book stores.
- Edel OConnell, Evening Echo, September 2008
How do you cope with the death of your young child? What do you tell your other children? Does it help or destroy your marriage? When does the grieving become more about you than your dead child? Such is .the intensity of pain and loss experienced by Marguerite Kiely on the death of her eleven-month-old son Aaron, from a very rare and aggressive form of liver cancer, that this becomes a very emotionally difficult book to read, but also the reader wants to know that something positive has survived from the catastrophe which engulfed this family, and so continues reading to the end.
Kiely writes with unconditional honesty about her personal feelings, her guilt about losing her baby, constantly fed by fears that she should or could have done more to save him. Her guilt at almost abandoning her four-year-old son Colin and husband Austin for a short period. Her older brother Noel, a Catholic priest, takes the brunt of her falling-out with god, but he too is suffering.
The silence was suddenly broken by Noel collapsing and breaking down in tears. I rushed back to hold him up as he fell against the wall uttering the words "Oh how I loved him" over and over again ... For those few moments I came to recognise that even those with the most intense faith are also tested.
As the level of grief recedes, Kiely determines to learn from her familys experience of looking after a sick child in hospital. She remembers with gratitude the help and support they were given at the Bristol Hospital. Eventually she and the family, now including two daughters as well as Colin returned to live in Cork, and, 11 -12005, with the help of family and friends, opened BruColumbanus, a large parent-friendly house within a five minute walk of Cork University Hospital.
It holds twenty-four family rooms, TV rooms, counselling rooms, prayer rooms, play rooms and offices. It provides all the help that families need to find within one friendly space, somewhere to catch your breath, to get some sleep, to consider the future. In the prayer room is a plaque in remembrance of Aaron.
Catastrophic grief, for whatever reason, runs a well worn path through hope, despair, rage and eventually acceptance to a greater or lesser degree. Marguerite Kielys explicatory story provides many insights. Her decision to train as a psychotherapist, and to specialise in grief counselling, comes as no surprise.
- BOOKS IRELAND, October 2009
- LOVING YOU IS SHARING YOU
Its 27 September 2005 and were travelling back from Cork to our home in Dublin. Its a damp, misty night. I turn and look behind to see my two daughters, both exhausted after this busy but special day. Chloe, ten years, covered with her favourite pink fluffy blanket, her straight blonde hair swept across the pillow that accompanied her on all her travels. Ava, just two years old, propped up in her car seat with her pink duddy moving up and down in her mouth, her sweaty tangled blonde curls framing her peaceful face. I smiled, for today I could see my darling Aaron within them both. Chloe with her everlasting patience and gentleness, Ava with those vivid blue eyes reminiscent of his wonderful, handsome expression, an expression I was once told was just too good looking for this world. Turning back, I stared at the raindrops racing down the car door window, and outside there was nothing but darkness, reflecting my own feeling of sadness. Words that angered me eleven years previously and that I had buried had today returned to life. Their meaning, so clearly evident and justified now, no longer accompanied by past pain but rather by a tremendous warmth and comfort which filled my every sense. Some day, I promise you, some good will come from this pain. Maybe not today, nor tomorrow, but it will come. It was Friday morning, 1 October 1993, 8 a.m., and my son, my darling Aaron, just eleven months old, was cradled in my arms, now at peace. Tears rolled down my face as Dr Ramaille uttered these words, gently rubbing my hand. His big soft brown eyes stared into mine, filled with emotion and sharing my unbearable grief. A pain he had seen so many times, but from which he was never detached. He was a Spanish intern who each morning and last thing at night came to our room on the oncology ward at Bristol Hospital for Sick Children, St Michaels Hill. He had developed a soft spot for Aaron and his crazy Irish family. Today his words had come to fruition, the passage not fading their impact. This Monday morning had seen the opening of Bró Columbanus, a home-away-fromhome for the families of the terminally ill. In memory of Aaron, this fabulous and much-needed facility had become the dream of my brother, Charlie, and now the object through which Dr Ramailles prediction was turned into a reality. I had unveiled a plaque with the inscription: His presence an inspiration and everlasting. Oh his presence! For today, deep within me, I knew he had returned to this world, his love just too precious to lay to rest. I felt him near me so much this day I could once again smell his golden hair and feel the gentle softness of his skin against mine. Part of me wanted to cry out that he was back, but no, I was too greedy to share him. I needed so much to hold on to the amazing feeling of his warm presence. Austin was driving and there was little chat between us. I knew how difficult the day had been for him. I sighed and he took my hand and asked if I was okay. I nodded; words were not needed for we both knew we were today back at a place of indescribable loss, a sadness the years hadnt erased, but had instead been replaced by a kind of acceptance that allows you to continue. Time does not pause for grief. My own belief is that it is natures way of preventing you from going mad from the pain of a broken heart. I sighed again, my mind running back over that horrible time. We had moved to Taunton in Somerset in 1990 when Austin was offered a job with Kerry Foods Plc. Colin, our first-born, was four years old and ready to begin school, so the timing for a change in our lives seemed perfect. For the first three months Austin had travelled back and forth from our home in Cork until he had found somewhere for us to live. We decided it was best to rent for a while, to allow us time to settle in and become accustomed to our new life. Taunton, the main town of Somerset, was a typical English town set in a picturesque landscape. It was small and easy to find your way round, which reminded me of my own home, Cork city. We enrolled Colin in Manor School, a small family-run country school, and he adapted easily. At this time we lived in the suburb of Galmington, an attractive new housing development, and in those first few months a neighbour, Jane Aldawani, came and introduced herself. Her little boy Adam travelled with Colin on the school bus, and Jane herself was a kind, gentle lady who was to become a great friend and support in the difficult times ahead. After the initial period of excitement and busyness with our new home I began to experience bouts of incredible loneliness. I missed my family back in Ireland, and telephone bills were a constant source of discussion, but Austin always took pity and succumbed to the charges! There were also other Irish families working within the company and living close by. In time we developed a good social life with those whom I refer to as some of my own. It was the first time that I had, however, also experienced a divide in cultures, a shock to me as our countries were so close in proximity. At times I felt alienated because of my strong Irish accent. This was the period during which to be Irish in England automatically linked you with the Troubles.
When I had to explain the geographical location of Cork to my neighbours I became aware of how limited they were in their knowledge of Ireland. In 1992 we decided we would like a brother or sister for Colin. I remember how excited he was when I told him I was pregnant; he couldnt wait to tell all his friends on the school bus and he wrote it on his news board in class that day.
My pregnancy went extremely well and my gynaecologist and GP never had any cause for concern at any stage. I enjoyed being pregnant and deep down I longed for a baby girl and spent a lot of time looking at pink clothes. Little did I know that this small, insignificant desire would in future years haunt me with an overwhelming sense of guilt. It was during my pregnancy that I met Dr John Scanlon, a Limerick GP living in Taunton. Because of his Irish origins we developed a friendly rapport and he would soon become a strong anchor in our lives. And on reflection, life was kind to us at that time: we had our health and our family situation was so very normal, so very good.