JUST a few short months ago Zara Cronin was your average kid, involved in as many sports and activities as her mam Ann Marie could bring her to.
She especially loved Irish dancing, camogie and gymnastics.
On December 4, Ann Marie got the phone call that every parent dreads; Zara had had an accident at school.
A minor collision in the school yard combined with an underlying condition dislocated Zara’s C1 and C2 joints.
Essentially, Zara’s head came away from her neck.
“To have an accident like this, she was like someone who was in an accident or was dropped off a cliff. She was running in the school yard and her head was turned back and she ran into someone. It shouldn’t have caused this type of injury,” Ann Marie said.
Zara was admitted to Galway Regional Hospital, where she had to have halo traction to stop her injury getting worse.
Halo traction involves tying the head on to the top of the bed to pull the head up and stop it compressing the spinal cord so the injury doesn’t get worse.
After two weeks, Zara had a halo brace fitted, which meant that she had to have four screws inserted into her skull to keep her head in place.
“She’s actually very, very good in fairness. She’s so brave and she’s smiling with the halo brace stuck on to her skull. She’s been amazing. I don’t know would I have coped as well myself in that situation,” Ann Marie added.
Zara has since had the halo brace removed and has moved to wearing a hard plastic collar, but it is only the start of her journey to recovery.
She was recently diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos syndrome, a genetic connective tissue disorder caused by faulty collagen.
It results in complications ranging from mildly loose joints to life-threatening complications.
Zara is currently in a wheelchair and is waiting to start therapy in the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire.
She needs to travel to London for a specialist MRI to assess the damage.
“If she doesn’t get treatment abroad, this will come off again. The same thing will happen and she will not be so lucky the next time. She’s not paralysed, even though she has a spinal cord injury, but we’re hoping with the proper rehabilitation that she will get up and walk some bit,” Ann Marie added.
Zara has already missed out on six months of school and it looks like she will no longer be able to enjoy her favourite activities.
“We had a couple of parties and there were bouncy castles. Me and you might not think that’s a big thing but for a child of 10 years of age, that’s their whole life, that’s a huge thing for a child.
“Even if she was up and walking, she will never be able to go on a bouncy castle or on a trampoline or do the gymnastics or Irish dancing. She will never be able to do any of that again. That’s the hardest part for her. She is missing out on her childhood in that sense,” Ann Marie said.
In spite of all of the difficulties she has faced, Zara doesn’t let it get her down.
She loves getting out and about and catching up on all of the news when visitors come to see her.
“She likes to get out and about and meet people, or else visitors to call and see her. She’s not one to sit at home feeling sorry for herself, she doesn’t thank God, she’s very good that way,” Ann Marie said.
Most of the children diagnosed with this condition need to have their C1 to C7 neck joints fused to provide more stability and prevent injury.
Eventually Zara will need the same treatment, which costs up to €100,000.
Ann Marie is very unhappy that the treatment Zara needs will not be at least partly paid for by the HSE.
“It’s awful that you’re dealing with a sick child and you still have to come up with all the money yourself to go abroad which is very sad that the HSE can’t fund some of it, the fact that they haven’t the treatment here for them,” Ann Marie added.
Ann Marie has had to take time off work to look after Zara, which doesn’t help with paying for the expensive treatment.
“I’m a single parent so it’s quite difficult. I’m waiting for the carers allowance to come through and that takes months. I’m very lucky that I have great family and friends that do support us and have supported us all along,” Ann Marie said.
The parents in Zara’s school have rallied around to organise a fundraiser to help pay for her extensive treatment.
Twice Shy will hold a special concert in Treacy’s West County Hotel, Ennis on Friday, May 4, 2018.
The band will be followed by a late night DJ and tickets costing €20 are available from Treacy’s West County Hotel, Donnelan’s Centra, Lynch’s Centra, Minehan’s Centra and online at www.fundraiserforzara.com.
Donate at Zara’s Go Fund Me page here