Baby Sarah Barrett pictured with her mother Claire, brothers Charlie and Conor and father Jason at home in Portnoo, Co Donegal
A Carrick-on-Shannon woman has launched a fundraising walk just one year after the extraordinary story of the birth of her daughter Sarah that entailed a 240 Km dash to Dublin, a ten week stay in a Dublin hospital, an emergency section and all with the background of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Claire O’Donnell has launched “Sarah’s Journey” on www.gofundme.com in aid of the National Maternity Hospital Foundation and the Neonatal Unit in Letterkenny University Hospital to thank both hospitals for their extraordinary work to ensure that her daughter Sarah arrived into this world safe and sound.
Claire, living in Portnoo in Donegal with her husband Jason, sons Charlie & Conor and daughter Sarah, is the sister of Carrick AC international athlete Gerard O’Donnell while her brother Brian was a member of the St Mary’s Kiltoghert team who reached last year’s County Final.
Her mother Mary is steeped in the local community in the Leitrim town, through her work as a coach and official with the Athletic Club, being honoured in 2019 with the Volunteer in Sport Award for Leitrim while she is also deeply involved with the Breffni Players.
But it is the story of the youngest member of the clan that has captured the attention as Claire takes up the story: “Our daughter Sarah Barrett turns 1 on April 22, 2021. For those of you who know our story, you'll be aware of how grateful we are to all the medical personnel who looked after myself and Sarah.
“So we'd love for you to join us in helping raise funds for both the National Maternity Hospital Foundation and the Neonatal Unit in Letterkenny University Hospital.”
For those that don’t know, it is something of an epic tale that leaves you understanding exactly why Claire and her husband Jason are determined to give something back to the two hospitals that looked so carefully after baby Sarah.
Taking up the story, Claire recalls “On February 15, 2020 my waters broke at 24 weeks gestation. We didn't know. I had been in and out of hospital with significant bleeds from week 14 and presumed it was another one.
“The amazing staff in Letterkenny looked after us that morning, and after a few frantic hours myself and bump were off to The National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street by ambulance. That was the first day of my 10 week stay in The National Maternity Hospital. Sarah fought hard for nine weeks before being delivered by emergency section at 33 weeks on April 22, 2020.”
Covid meant no visitors, not even husband Jason was allowed into the National Maternity Hospital but the staff really pulled out all the stops: “Due to covid restrictions and the rush to get her delivered Jason was waiting by the phone back home in Donegal for word of her arrival. Every member of staff in the hospital was amazing.
“They kept us long term patients going with stories from their own lives and even organised a few Sundays of board games and treats (at that time of the restrictions not even partners were allowed to visit).”
Sarah’s birth didn’t mean the end of drama as she spent 23 days in Letterkenny Hospital with only her mother Claire allowed to visit, meaning her brothers didn’t get to see their new sister until she finally arrived home.
“Four days after Sarah was born she was transferred back to Letterkenny Hospital where the wonderful staff of the Neonatal unit looked after her for a further 23 days,” recalls Claire, “Restrictions were still in place so I got one visit per day with Sarah for a limited time, while video calling Jason and the boys who had to stay outside waiting in the hospital car park.
“Obviously it was hard leaving her every day, and we live an hour from the hospital. But we knew she was in very capable hands and we were treated with such kindness and compassion by everyone in Letterkenny.”
Despite all the drama, Claire and Jason feels nothing but gratitude to the two hospitals for all they did to ensure Sarah’s safe arrival: “We know how lucky we are that we got a very happy ending to our story and will always be grateful to the two hospitals for that.”
It is that gratitude that has prompted Claire and Jason to launch their fundraising campaign to mark a rather unique birthday. Birthday parties and family celebrations are out due to Covid but Claire and Jason are hoping their family and friends will help them mark Sarah’s first birthday in a very practical way.
“So on Sarah's first birthday our family and friends will collectively be walking the 480km return journey that myself and Sarah took,” said Claire, “and in the process hopefully raise some funds for the National Maternity Hospital Foundation and the Neonatal Unit in Letterkenny University Hospital.”
If you would like to support “Sarah’s Journey”, click HERE and it will take you straight to the page. The remarkable tale has obviously hit a cord with over €1,400 raised by Tuesday morning, almost three quarters of the target of €2,000.